Indictment in TX over Planned Parenthood Sting Shows Strength of Evidence

Texas is the state of Roe v Wade and the next major abortion case before the Supreme Court, Whole Women’s Health v. Cole.  NO question, it’s a pro-life state. Yesterday’s grand jury indictment of Daleidan and Merrit of the Center for Medical Progress – in the middle of an investigation into Planned Parenthood – speaks to the strength of the evidence against them. They weren’t actually the targets of the probe, after all, and a prosecutor controls a grand jury in a way she doesn’t control a “petit” jury (the one that sits in a trial).  There is no defense in a grand jury, just the prosecutor and evidence.

Daleidan has been indicted for violating Texas’s Prohibition of the Purchase and Sale of Human Organs which makes criminal a person’s actions if he ”knowingly or intentionally offers to buy, offers to sell, acquires, receives, sells, or transfers any human organ for valuable consideration.  It appears that either on camera and/or in an email to Planned Parenthood, Daleidan offered over $1000 for tissue, which Planned Parenthood ignored.

Daleidan and Merrit have both been indicted for violating tampering with a governmental record which makes criminal a person’s actions if he “makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent that it be taken as a genuine governmental record.” The “government record”  is most likely the California drivers licenses they used as part of their false identities, and the maximum sentence is 20 years in federal prison, but only if a prosecutor can prove their intent was to defraud or harm. While their defense lawyers will argue that their “citizen journalism” means they harbored neither of these intentions, if two records are altered, under Texas law there is a presumption that this intent was present. That’s bad news if the two defendants both participated in altering the drivers licenses – because their motives don’t matter anymore, and this intent will be automatically imputed to them

Prosecutors have a lot of discretion in the grand jury process, and an indictment for Planned Parenthood would have been politically popular. And yet the opposite (and almost unthinkable) happened. I’m expecting we’ll see First Amendment defenses for the “journalism” the Center for Medical Progress calls its undercover operations. In his defense, Daleidan has alreadyput out a statement that “buying  fetal tissue requires a seller as well.”  He’s wrong. The law he’s charged under, just buying, or even offering to buy the tissue is criminal conduct in and of itself.

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