SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal jury found Friday that an anti-abortion activist illegally secretly recorded workers at Planned Parenthood clinics and is liable for violating federal and state laws. The jury ordered him, the Center for Medical Progress and other parties to pay nearly $2.3 million in damages.
The jury awarded $1 million in damages, but offenses under the federal Racketeer and Corrupt Organizations Act are considered acts of organized crime and penalties awarded for them are automatically tripled.
After a six-week civil trial, the San Francisco jury found David Daleiden trespassed on private property and committed other crimes in recording the 2015 videos. He and the Center for Medical Progress and various employees were ordered to pay varying amounts.
Daleiden and a co-defendant, Sandra Merritt, are set to go on trial starting Dec. 6 on 14 counts each of invasion of privacy. They have pleaded not guilty and argue they are undercover journalists shielded from prosecution.
Planned Parenthood sued the activists as part of what the group called “a multi-year illegal effort to manufacture a malicious campaign.”
“The jury recognized today that those behind the campaign broke the law in order to advance their goals of banning safe, legal abortion in this country, and to prevent Planned Parenthood from serving the patients who depend on us,” the organization’s acting president and CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson, said in a statement.
Daleiden said the jury reached the verdict after a “biased judge with close Planned Parenthood ties spent six weeks trying to influence the jury with pre-determined rulings and suppressed the video evidence.”
The judge in the civil trial barred the release of some the videos.
Daleiden was represented in court by the St. Thomas More Society, which said it would appeal Friday’s verdict.
Daleiden and Merritt sneaked into numerous Planned Parenthood meetings and other abortion rights gatherings and shot undercover videos of their attempts to buy fetal material. They published the videos in 2015.
Planned Parenthood argued that the videos were heavily edited to unfairly show workers agreeing to sell fetal material for profit, which the group says it does not do.
The videos led to three congressional inquiries and criminal investigations in at least 15 states.
Planned Parenthood says it doesn’t sell fetal material for profit and charged only modest expenses to cover costs of donating it for medical research. The organization stopped seeking reimbursement for its shipping costs, and it never faced charges.
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