This week there was a major development in California’s case against two pro-life activists involved in producing an undercover video series that purported to show clinic chain Planned Parenthood engaged in the sale of fetal body parts.
As Faithwire previously reported, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced 15 felony charges against Center for Medical Progress founder David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, a woman who assisted in the video series that sparked widespread protests against clinic chain Planned Parenthood in 2015, back in March.
But on Wednesday, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite threw out 14 of the 15 charges, leaving one charge against the duo for conspiracy to invade privacy; attorneys will work to remove that charge as well, according to National Review.
“Life Legal has maintained that the felony charges against David and Sandra are without merit and should be dismissed in their entirety,” Alexandra Snyder, executive director for the Life Legal Defense Foundation, said in a statement after the charges were dropped. “David and Sandra got on the wrong side of Planned Parenthood and its cronies, but they are clearly on the right side of the law.”
The original charges against Becerra said Daleiden and Merritt were based on Becerra’s claim that they created fake identities and a faux bio-research company, recording private conversations with numerous individuals affiliated with Planned Parenthood. He proclaimed that California won’t “tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Since 14 people were allegedly recorded without their consent, the activists were charged with 14 separate counts of recording individuals without their permission and an additional count of “conspiracy to invade privacy,” the outlet noted back in March.
The dismissal of the charges is being heralded among members of the pro-life community, as this is the second time the duo have had charges brought against them and then dropped; a similar incident previously unfolded in Houston, Texas.
But there’s an important caveat to consider in this case: The charges could be refiled within the next two weeks.
The judge reportedly dismissed the charges with “leave to amend,” meaning Becerra can re-file against Daleiden and Merritt if there is new or additional evidence against them. Hite gave the California attorney general until mid-July to do so, Life News reported.
A statement from the California Department of Justice seemed to indicate that the judge’s concerns were rooted more in a vagueness surrounding the state’s claims, with the text indicating that California might not give the case up.
“Following the defense’s complaint that there are too many surreptitious recordings to know which ones the California Department of Justice is relying on, the Judge requested more specificity in the charging document, specifically to identify the videos that are the basis of the charges,” the statement read. “The California Department of Justice has 10 days to amend the complaint and will be making the requested changes.”
Taking this news into account, Fox News reported that Becerra is “vowing to have the felony criminal charges reinstated.”
It is unclear what will happen next, but Daleiden has long decried the charges brought against him as “bogus” and “fake news,” dismissing those behind the case as “political cronies” bent on benefitting Planned Parenthood.
“They tried the same collusion with corrupt officials in Houston, TX and failed: both the charges and the DA were thrown out,” he said back in March. “The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners like StemExpress and DV Biologics — currently being prosecuted in California — who have harvested and sold aborted baby body parts for profit for years in direct violation of state and federal law.”