Undercover journalist David Daleiden—whose videos showed evidence Planned Parenthood was trafficking in aborted baby parts—will appeal a $2.3 million judgment handed down Friday by a San Francisco jury after he and a colleague were convicted on numerous charges, including the federal RICO, Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations, law. Under RICO, compensatory damage charges are tripled.
Daleiden, and his Center for Medical Progress, made national headlines in 2015 when he released a series of videos in which Planned Parenthood executives discussed the sale of fetal parts, as well as their willingness to manipulate abortion procedures to preserve organs for sale. Daleiden and Sandra Merritt also secretly recorded conversations with officials from fetal tissue procurement businesses that worked with Planned Parenthood.
Shortly after releasing the videos, Daleiden explained his justification for the clandestine operation before a gathering at the Evangelicals for Life conference.
“I think that undercover work is fundamentally different from lying, because the purpose of undercover work is to serve the truth and to bring the truth to greater clarity and to communicate the truth more strongly," he told them.
But, during the San Francisco civil trial, federal Judge William Orrick ruled journalism was not a defense for the undercover operation.
Jurors agreed, determining the defendants were guilty of fraud, trespassing, illegal recording, racketeering and breach of contract, awarding $870,000 in punitive damages and about $470,000 in compensatory damages. Because of the RICO statutes, the compensatory damages were tripled to more than $1.4 million.
Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, lauded the decision.
"The jury recognized today that those behind the campaign broke the law in order to advance their goals of banning safe, legal abortion," she said.
In total, Planned Parenthood will receive $2.28 million.
"It is as though the jury completely disregarded every piece of evidence we produced," Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, said. "Not only does Planned Parenthood engage in illegal and morally repugnant practices, but its agents never bothered to tell the defendants that the conversations about things like 'crushing above and crushing below' to get more desirable and salable body parts were confidential."
Thomas More Society, which has represented Daleiden since Planned Parenthood filed suit against him, will appeal the verdict.
“This lawsuit is payback for David Daleiden exposing Planned Parenthood’s dirty business of buying and selling fetal parts and organs,” Thomas More Society attorney Peter Breen said in a statement. “We intend to seek vindication for David on appeal. His investigation into criminal activity by America’s largest abortion provider utilized standard investigative journalism techniques, those applied regularly by news outlets across the country.”
The attorney said Daleiden’s work has resulted in numerous states working to pull funding for Planned Parenthood.
The videos recorded Planned Parenthood supervisors discussing ways to obtain organs from aborted babies, at times laughing and joking about how much money they could make. At least one of the videos offered evidence of the dissection of live babies outside the womb to remove organs, according to Baptist Press.
“Rather than face up to its heinous doings, Planned Parenthood chose to persecute the person who exposed it,” Breen said. “I am fully confident that when this case has run its course, justice will prevail, and David will be vindicated.”
As they await an appeal on the civil matter, Daleiden is facing criminal charges in an ongoing case brought by the state of California, which is also being heard in San Francisco. Thomas More Society is representing Daleiden in that case as well.
Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Michael B. Thomas/Stringer
Lori Arnold is a national award-winning journalist whose experience includes 16 years at a daily community newspaper in San Diego and 16 years as writer-editor for the Christian Examiner. She owns StoryLori Media and is a member of the Evangelical Press Association.