David Robert Daleiden
1 January 1989
|Education||Davis Senior High School (2007)|
|Alma mater||Claremont McKenna College|
|Home town||Davis, California|
Early life and family
Daleiden says he is the "child of a crisis pregnancy" and grew up "culturally Catholic." His mother, Gina Surkala Daleiden, served for nine years as a trustee on the Davis School Board and is the executive director of First 5 Yolo, a state taxpayer funded early childhood development program.
In 2015, Daleiden released videos showing footage of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fees for human fetal tissue and organs.  Daleiden, an associate of Lila Rose, ran a Live Action chapter in 2007 and was the organization’s director of research "during the early stages" of the project to make secret recordings of Planned Parenthood clinics. He originally registered his Center for Medical Progress [C.M.P.] as a tax-exempt biomedical charity. In furtherance of his plan, he set up a fake biomedical research company called Biomax Procurement Services. Daleiden and his collaborator, Sandra Merritt, posed as employees of Biomax and orchestrated surreptitious recordings of interviews where his associates asked about tissue donation costs, and questioned whether tissue samples could be acquired from African American patients with sickle-cell anemia. After the publication of the videos, Daleiden re-registered his Center for Medical Progress as a journalistic organization.
Planned Parenthood states that they may donate fetal tissue at the request of a patient, but such tissue is never sold. According to Molly Redden of The Guardian, the content of the videos was "broadly considered to be false, the product of aggressive and misleading editing". Fusion GPS, the production company Planned Parenthood hired in the wake of the scandal to debunk the videos, rigorously analyzed them and found what they considered to be "...‘substantive omissions’ on Daleiden's part. According to the investigation, the reviewers could not determine ‘the extent to which C.M.P.’s undisclosed edits and cuts distort the meaning of the encounters the videos purport to document.’ But, it said, ‘the manipulation of the videos does mean they have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries’ unless C.M.P. provides investigators with its original material, and that material is independently authenticated as unaltered.”, However, Coalfire Systems, a research firm that was hired by Daleiden's legal defense team, disputes this. On September 28th, 2015, the firm published its findings, having compared both the edited and unedited versions of the videos. Their conclusions were as follows- "Coalfire’s analysis of the recorded media files contained on the flash drive indicates that the video recordings are authentic and show no evidence of manipulation or editing. This conclusion is supported by the consistency of the video file date and time stamps, the video timecode, as well as the folder and file naming scheme. The uniformity between the footage from the cameras from the two Investigators also support the evidence that the video recordings are authentic.
The videos were shown to Republican Congressmen Trent Franks and Tim Murphy two weeks before being made publicly available, leading commentators to note that the timing of the release appeared to coincide with a bipartisan bill to raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
On January 22, 2016, Daleiden appeared on C-SPAN for a question-and-answer session that included viewer call-ins. He advocated reverting current laws back to the time when all elective abortions were criminal acts. The segment's opposing view was presented by NARAL Pro-Choice America policy director Donna Crane.
Dropped criminal charges in Texas
On January 25, 2016, a grand jury in Harris County, Texas that originally had investigated the Gulf Coast chapter of Planned Parenthood indicted Daleiden on a felony count of tampering with governmental records by making and using a fake driver's license, and a misdemeanor charge for emailing an offer to buy fetal tissue for $1,600.
Daleiden turned himself in on February 4, 2016, and appeared in court after posting $3,000 bond. He could have faced a prison sentence of up to 22 years if convicted, according to The Washington Post. He reportedly rejected a plea deal in the case.
The misdemeanor charge of offering to buy fetal tissue was dismissed on June 13, 2016, because of a defect in the indictment. The felony charge regarding the alleged use of a false driver license was pending in another court in Harris County. On July 26, 2016, Texas District Judge Brock Thomas dismissed the felony charges at the request of Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson.
On January 18, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit concluded the videos were authentic, and ruled that the state of Texas could strip Planned Parenthood of its taxpayer subsidy.
Criminal charges in California
On March 28, 2017, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed 15 felony charges against Daleiden, alleging that he and associate Sandra Susan Merritt were guilty of conspiring to pose as BioMax employees in order to intentionally record confidential communications between themselves and Planned Parenthood employees in Century City (Los Angeles), Pasadena (Los Angeles), El Dorado (El Dorado), and San Francisco. On June 21, 2017, Superior Court Judge Christopher Hite dismissed fourteen of the charges, with leave to amend, on the grounds that they were legally insufficient because they did not include details such as the names of the alleged victims and the locations and dates of the videoed events. "Leave to amend" means that the prosecutors were allowed the option to re-file the charges with more details; the prosecutors did so some time during the week of July 3, and all fifteen felony charges against Daleiden and Merritt are active again.
On June 30, 2017, state prosecutors refiled the 14 dismissed charges with numerical identifications for each video. On August 24, 2017, the San Francisco Superior Court rejected new defense motions to dismiss the charges and allowed the case to proceed. Daleiden then pleaded not guilty. As of September 3, 2019, the criminal case is still pending, and Daleiden and Merritt are charged with 15 counts of felony invasion of privacy. On December 6, 2019, Judge Christopher Hite ruled that Daleiden and Merritt will stand trial on nine felony counts involving eavesdropping and invasion of privacy. The pair will be arraigned January 30, 2020.
Contempt of court
As part of the National Abortion Federation's lawsuit against Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress, Federal Judge William Orrick III and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction forbidding Daleiden and CMP from publishing any more videos they had illegally obtained at private professional meetings. However, new videos then appeared on the website of Daleiden's attorney, former Los Angeles County District Attorney, Steve Cooley. Orrick ordered Daleiden and his attorneys, Cooley and Brentford J. Ferreira, to appear at a June 14 hearing to consider contempt sanctions. On July 11, 2017, Orrick found attorneys Cooley and Ferreira in contempt of court, saying, "With respect to the criminal defense counsel, they do not get to decide whether they can violate the preliminary injunction".
On July 17, Orrick found Daleiden, the Center for Medical Progress and their lawyers, Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira, in contempt of court. Orrick ordered Daleiden to turn over video footage and other materials related to his 2016 preliminary injunction.
On August 31, Orrick found Daleiden and his attorneys, Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira, liable for the payment of $195,359 to compensate the National Abortion Federation for legal fees and increased security for "expenses incurred as a result of the violation of my Preliminary Injunction Order:". Orrick wrote that Daleiden's attorneys, Cooley and Ferreira, were included in the sanctions intended to ensure "current and future compliance" with his order.
Criminal hearing 2019
In September 2019, a hearing was held in San Francisco to determine whether Center for Medical Progress affiliates David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt should go to trial for fifteen criminal counts of felony invasion of privacy. In this hearing, Daleiden's attorneys disputed the warrant by which agents with the California Dept of Justice entered Daleiden's home and seized computers and digital storage devices, along with some phony identification documents in April, 2016. The court, however, denied their claim that Daleiden was protected by California's Shield Law for acting as a citizen journalist, because the Dept of Justice had sufficient probable cause of criminal activity to make the seizures.
Civil jury trial
Following the September, 2019 criminal hearing, Planned Parenthood and others affected by Daleiden's videos initiated a civil jury trial against Center for Medical Progress affiliates Daleiden, Merritt and also Troy Newman, Albin Rhomberg and Gerardo Adrian Lopez in federal court. They were accused of fraud, breach of contract, unlawful recording of conversations, civil conspiracy and also violation of federal anti-racketeering law. A guilty verdict was rendered on November 16th, 2019, and he was instructed to pay $870,000 in punitive damages to Planned Parenthood. Daleiden promised to immediately appeal this verdict.
Suit against Savita Ginde
In 2019, Daleiden filed a lawsuit against one of the doctors accused, Savita Ginde, alleging defamation. The Federalist said Ginde maligned the videos as fake, in both her TedTalk and her memoir.
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The CMP was founded by David Daleiden, an anti-abortion activist who previously worked for the group Live Action, known for its heavily edited undercover videos of Planned Parenthood staffers.
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- The Harris County, Texas grand jury charged Daleiden with making, presenting and using a California driver's license "with the intent to defraud and harm another [ . . . ]". The photocopy attached to the indictment appears to show a California driver's license in the name of "Robert David Sarkis." Indictment, Jan. 25, 2016, The State of Texas v. David Robert Daleiden, case no. 1496318, 338th District Court, Harris County, Texas.
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The case is Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. et al. v. Center for Medical Progress et al., case number 3:16-cv-00236, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
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