UPDATED – SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) — After a 10-member jury handed down a nearly $2.3 million judgment against David Daleiden late Nov. 15, a Chicago based pro-life firm said it would appeal the judgment on behalf of Daleiden and his organization, the Center for Medical Progress.
The verdict against Daleiden came in Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. et al v. Center for Medical Progress et al, a civil suit argued before Judge William H. Orrick III in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Planned Parenthood and 10 of its abortion affiliates brought the lawsuit in 2016 over undercover investigative videos filmed in 2015 by Daleiden and his colleague Sandra Merritt that showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing fees related to fetal tissue. The two posed as representatives of a mythical fetal tissue procurement firm.
The monetary damages the jury awarded to Planned Parenthood included $870,000 in punitive damages that Daleiden, his associates and the Center for Medical Progress will pay, along with another $459,361 in compensatory damages they must pay to cover the costs of increased security measures the abortion organization said it had to take because of Daleiden.
Because the verdict was handed down under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, or RICO, the compensatory damages will be tripled, bringing the amount of all damages to $2,278,083.
“This lawsuit is payback for David Daleiden exposing Planned Parenthood’s dirty business of buying and selling fetal parts and organs,” said Peter Breen, lead defense attorney of the Thomas More Society in Chicago.
“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,” Breen added.
Planned Parenthood accused Daleiden and his colleagues of among other things fraud, illegal wiretapping, invasion of privacy and trespassing.
The organization said monies it received for fetal tissue were standard reimbursement fees charged to researchers and that any allegations it profited “in any way from tissue donation is not true.” But in the fall of 2015, Cecile Richards, then CEO of Planned Parenthood, announced the organization would no longer accept the reimbursements.
“Rather than face up to its heinous doings, Planned Parenthood chose to persecute the person who exposed it,” Breen added in a statement. “I am fully confident that when this case has run its course, justice will prevail, and David will be vindicated.”
In a statement, Planned Parenthood’s acting president and CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson, said the organization was “thrilled with today’s verdict.”
“The jury recognized today that those behind the (undercover video) campaign broke the law in order to advance their goals of banning safe, legal abortion in this country, and to prevent Planned Parenthood from serving the patients who depend on us,” she said.
“Justice was not done today in San Francisco,” Daleiden said in a statement.
“While top Planned Parenthood witnesses spent six weeks testifying under oath that the undercover videos are true and Planned Parenthood sold fetal organs on a quid pro quo basis,” he said, “a biased judge with close Planned Parenthood ties spent six weeks influencing the jury with pre-determined rulings and suppressing the video evidence, all in order to rubber-stamp Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit attack on the First Amendment.”
News reports said that in Orrick’s ground rules to the jury at the start of the trial, he excluded “going into the truth of abortion procedures” and said the case was not “not about the truth of whether plaintiffs profited from the sale of fetal tissue or otherwise violated the law in securing tissue for those programs.”
Critics of the judge questioned why he “allowed Planned Parenthood’s lawyers to play recordings of the undercover videos in question, but would not allow the same for the defense” during the trial, as The Federalist online magazine reported.
Daleiden has argued the undercover video project he and his associates carried out as citizen journalists to find out about fetal tissue sales is no different than the undercover investigations professional journalists conduct.
He said the jury’s verdict “is a dangerous precedent for citizen journalism and First Amendment civil rights across the country, sending a message that speaking truth and facts to criticize the powerful is no longer protected by our institutions.”
A number of pro-life leaders around the country decried the verdict against Daleiden, including the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, Marjorie Dannenfelser.
She called is a “profoundly unjust verdict” in “a trial stacked from day one by a pro-abortion activist judge.”
“Still, the testimony heard — including stunning admissions that Planned Parenthood’s baby parts buyer sold the beating hearts and fully intact heads of innocent children killed in potentially illegal abortions — has further exposed the truth about abortion industry brutality and greed,” Dannenfelser added.
She and Breen noted that what the videos exposed prompted the U.S. Congress to issue criminal referrals for Planned Parenthood, and numerous states and elected officials have moved to strip it of funding.
Attorneys from the Thomas More Society are defending Daleiden in a California state criminal trial over the same video exposes.
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