Talk about shooting the messengers! Or at the very least, taking aim at them. A Houston grand jury investigated the activities exposed in the undercover videos from the Center for Medical Progress that showed Planned Parenthood executives haggling over the price of bodies and organs from abortions in their clinics, and decided to punish … the people who exposed it. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt from CMP face misdemeanor charges relating to the sale of fetal tissue and tampering with government records:
A Houston grand jury that was investigating accusations of criminal misconduct against Planned Parenthood on Monday instead indicted the leader of an anti-abortion group that recorded covert videos of the organization’s employees.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said David Daleiden, the director of the Center for Medical Progress, faces a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to buying human tissue.
Sandra Merritt, one of Daleiden’s employees, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.
The indictment was curious silent on how exactly CMP manipulated government records, according to the Washington Post. The other charge appears to be based on the cover used by CMP to do their reporting — claiming they wanted to traffic in fetal tissue. If so, that’s a rather curious application of the law, since it was clearly not CMP’s intent to facilitate such sales but to expose them.
On top of that, this technique gets used by law enforcement and journalists every day. Would Chris Hansen face indictment for trafficking in child sex for his excellent series of stings that captured numerous pedophiles? Do narcotics officers face charges in Houston for offering to buy or sell drugs in order to catch criminals in the act?
CMP wondered why, if the grand jury was punishing one party for negotiating sales regardless of intent, other parties in the negotiations weren’t indicted as well:
In a statement issued Monday evening, the Center for Medical Progress said it “uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws. We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”
Perhaps that might be in part because one of the Harris County prosecutors serves as a board member for the Planned Parenthood clinic at the heart of this matter. LifeNews reported on the potential conflict of interest last August:
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson has announced that her office will start a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood. The announcement came after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked for the DA’s office to open an immediate criminal investigation. …
Lauren Reeder is a prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s criminal family law division. She apparently notified District Attorney Devon Anderson of her role with Planned Parenthood last week. Reeder is listed as a non-compensated “Director” on the990 Tax Form for 2014 filed by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
Anderson told the Houston Chronicle that Reeder “will not be involved in any manner in this investigation. If at any time in the future, reliable and credible information is brought to my attention that would question our ability to continue to perform a fair, thorough and independent investigation of this matter due to her board membership, I will revisit the issue of seeking the appointment of an independent prosecutor and act accordingly.”
Indicting the messengers might be a pretty good indication of a lack of “independent investigation.” This looks like a cooked process, not dissimilar to Travis County grand jury actions over the past decade or so. Live Action’s Lila Rose demanded a special prosecutor:
“David Daleiden and his team have done a tremendous public service by exposing the horrific crimes against humanity that Planned Parenthood hides behind closed doors. CMP’s investigation forced Planned Parenthood, a tax-funded billion dollar corporation, to admit it was harvesting and selling aborted baby parts.
“The district attorney’s office was asked months ago about recusing itself from this case because one of its prosecutors serves as a board member of the Planned Parenthood affiliate involved in the case. It is unacceptable that the office did not recuse itself to eliminate any and all questions of potential bias. A special prosecutor should be appointed now to review this entire investigation.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott pledged that the state’s investigation into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast will continue regardless of the grand jury’s actions. Perhaps Abbott might want to take a look at the conflict of interest in this indictment as well.
Update, 1/27: An unnamed reader with significant experience in the field cautions about the “conflict of interest” charge on Reeder. “Harris County probably has over a hundred prosecutors, and Reeder’s just a drone who prosecutes deadbeats for child support,” this person tells me. “She isn’t in the division that would have authority over this, and would be kicked out of her job by the (pro-life) district attorney if she had anything to do with it.” However, while the indictment of Daleiden and Merritt “seems odd,” according to the source, Reeder is almost certainly unrelated to it.