On Tuesday, the California Department of Justice raided the home of David Daleiden, the man behind last summer's "sting" videos targeting Planned Parenthood, seizing a laptop and multiple hard drives.
This makes California the second state to investigate possible criminal activity on Daleiden's part—earlier this year, a grand jury in Texas indicted him on a felony count of fraud and a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs. (Ironically, the grand jury was originally investigating the reproductive health group for potential wrongdoing.) In addition, Daleiden and his organization, the Center for Medical Progress, face two federal civil suits: one filed by the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and another from Planned Parenthood. Both allege that he and his associates engaged in a complex criminal enterprise over the course of several years.
"We fully support a thorough and complete investigation into David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress' activities," NAF president Vicki Saporta told Broadly over the phone. "As the evidence in our lawsuit has shown, he engaged in a long-running criminal conspiracy." Derek Foran, a lawyer who is representing NAF in their lawsuit, agreed, calling Daleiden's actions "a pretty serious invasion of people's rights."
"We're glad the California Attorney General is doing something about it," he said.
In July 2015, the Center for Medical Progress released a series of videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood profits off of the sale of fetal tissue. Through numerous state and federal investigations have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on Planned Parenthood's part—and though experts have found that the Center for Medical Progress tapes were deceptively edited—the anti-abortion group's claims continue to reverberate significantly.
"David Daleiden's accusations are empty and false and not at all legitimate, yet, in the course of conducting his activities, he apparently violated numerous laws," said Saporta.
According to both NAF's and Planned Parenthood's suits, Daleiden and his associates engaged in an elaborate pattern of deception with the goal of infiltrating and surreptitiously filming members of both organizations. In the process, they allege, he committed fraud, trespassing, illegal recording, and invasion of privacy.
For Saporta, it's important to hold Daleiden and his associates legally accountable for their actions because "his activities have had serious consequences for abortion providers in terms of their own personal safety." Yesterday, NAF released its annual report on anti-abortion violence and disruption statistics. According to their findings, this year has seen "a dramatic escalation in hate speech, threats, and violence" directly related to the Center for Medical Progress videos.
In 2014, NAF recorded one death threat against an abortion provider; in 2015, there were 94. Following the release of the videos, one provider received a voicemail in which someone said that they planned to "pull a Columbine and wipe everyone out," and several Planned Parenthood locations were vandalized. In November 2015, a gunman entered a facility in Colorado Springs and opened fire, killing three and injuring nine. He later said he was "a warrior for the babies."
"We saw a spike in those threats after every single one of those videos was released," Saporta said. "And it culminated in the most horrific attack in anti-abortion history."
In a statement, Daleiden insinuated that the California Attorney General has political motivations for targeting him. "Planned Parenthood's bought-and-paid-for AG has steadfastly refused to enforce the law against the baby body parts traffickers in our state, or even investigate them—while at the same time doing their bidding to harass and intimidate citizen journalists," he wrote. "We will pursue all remedies to vindicate our First Amendment rights."
Foran is skeptical of his argument, though. "[Daleiden] thinks he has rights that no one else has," he said. "Journalists don't have special privileges to break laws and commit fraud."