Pro-life investigator David Daleiden has filed a lawsuit alleging California Sen. Kamala Harris and Attorney General Xavier Becerra conspired with Planned Parenthood on a politically driven prosecution of an explosive undercover probe into the fetal-tissue business.
Mr. Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, accused the current and former state attorney generals of violating his First Amendment rights and abusing California’s two-party recording law to silence “disfavored speech.”
“This complaint seeks justice for a brazen, unprecedented, and ongoing conspiracy to selectively use California’s video recording laws as a political weapon to silence disfavored speech,” said the federal lawsuit filed Wednesday.
Also named in the lawsuit were Planned Parenthood for America, the National Abortion Federation, biospecimen provider StemExpress, and others.
Mr. Daleiden pleaded not guilty in February to nine state felony charges stemming from his 2013-15 undercover video investigation into Planned Parenthood’s involvement in procuring and selling fetal tissue from abortions for medical research.
“David Daleiden became the first journalist ever to be criminally prosecuted under California’s recording law, not because of the method of video recording he utilized in his investigation—which is common in investigative journalism in this state—but because his investigation revealed and he published ‘shock[ing]’ content that California’s Attorney General and the private party coconspirators wanted to cover up,” said the lawsuit.
Mr. Becerra announced the charges against in 2017 by accusing the defendants of engaging in the “criminal recording of confidential conversations,” declaring that the “right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society.”
Ms. Harris launched the investigation into the center’s videos while serving as California attorney general prior to her November 2016 Senate victory. She was succeeded by Mr. Becerra in January 2017.
“While running for U.S. Senate, Harris had a secret in-person meeting with Planned Parenthood executives in Los Angeles, including witnesses in her investigation, to discuss issues in the investigation as part of Planned Parenthood’s political agenda in California,” said the CMP press release. “Two weeks later, Daleiden’s home was raided by the California Department of Justice.”
.@AGBecerra admitted they are enforcing the video recording law solely based on how they feel about the message being published, and further admitted they are not even trying to follow the text of the law as written - @daviddaleidenhttps://t.co/R2KUxPgTLW#PPSellsBabyParts— Susan B. Anthony List (@SBAList) May 13, 2020
Representing Mr. Daleiden and the center are San Francisco lawyer Harmeet K. Dhillon — a Republican National Committeewoman from California — and attorneys from the Thomas More Society in Washington, D.C.
In November, a federal jury in San Francisco handed down a $2.2 million verdict against Mr. Daleiden and fellow investigator Sandra Merritt guilty of conspiring to commit fraud and violate state and federal recording laws. Attorneys for the defense have said they plan to appeal.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday accused state prosecutors of content discrimination, citing several examples of California journalists who surreptitiously recorded the targets of their investigations without their knowledge in private spaces where they could not be overheard, as did Mr. Daleiden, but were not prosecuted.
The videos of Planned Parenthood staff and others, which the center began releasing online in July 2015, led to House and Senate investigations; the 2016 removal of Planned Parenthood from the Texas state Medicaid program, and prosecution of tissue-procurement companies.
The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction against the so-called “Planned Parenthood Amendment,” passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature in 2016, which prohibits undercover recordings of healthcare providers.
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