A Texas judge threw out charges against the undercover videographers who exposed Planned Parenthood’s organ harvesting operation.
Judge Brock Thomas dismissed the tampering with government records charge against Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden.
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Daleiden was accused of using a fake ID in undercover discussions with top Planned Parenthood executives. The footage showing top officials discussing how they "line item" baby organs to boost payments from researchers was later published online leading to a public and political backlash against the nation’s top abortion provider.
Peter Breen, a Thomas More Society attorney who represented Daleiden, said called the victory a "huge win for the First Amendment." Defense attorneys argued that the Center for Medical Progress’ techniques were no different than past undercover press investigations.
"Today's dismissal in Houston is a huge win for the First Amendment rights of undercover journalists," Breen said. "This meritless and retaliatory prosecution should never have been brought. Planned Parenthood did wrong here, not David Daleiden."
Tuesday’s dismissal means Daleiden and his partner, Sandra Merritt, no longer face charges connected to a January indictment. In June, Harris County Judge Diane Bull threw out a charge of attempting to purchase a baby organ, citing a "defective indictment."
Daleiden posted a video in August 2015 showing Melissa Farrell, director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, discussing how abortion providers alter procedures to procure intact organs—a potential violation of federal law. Farrell also discussed how medical personnel can dissect an intact baby’s parts after its removal from the womb in order to charge higher prices.
"If we alter our process, and we are able to obtain intact fetal cadavers, we can make it part of the budget that any dissections are this, and splitting the specimens into different shipments is this. It’s all just a matter of line items," Farrell says in the video.
Daleiden called the charges "bogus" and "politically motivated" in a release and said that the dismissal was "a resounding vindication" of his work.
"The dismissal of the bogus, politically motivated charges against CMP … is a resounding vindication of the First Amendment rights of all citizen journalists, and also a clear warning to any of Planned Parenthood's political cronies who would attack whistleblowers to protect Planned Parenthood from scrutiny," Daleiden said in a release. "Planned Parenthood tried to collude with public officials to manipulate the legal process to their own benefit, and they failed."
Planned Parenthood did not respond to request for comment.
Planned Parenthood has been the subject of a number of state, congressional, and federal investigations since the Center for Medical Progress began publishing its video series online in 2015.