A federal jury in San Francisco on Friday ruled that the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), led by David Daleiden, must pay Planned Parenthood $870,000 in punitive damages. According to the jury, CMP "caused substantial harm to Planned Parenthood by infiltrating abortion industry conferences to secretly tape abortion doctors and staff," Courthouse News reported.
Between 2013 and 2015, Daleiden and his co-defendant, Sandra Merritt, attended abortion industry conferences posing as human tissue procurers. During those conferences, Daleiden and Merritt secretly recorded conversations as part of an investigation into the abortion giant.
According to Daleiden’s attorneys, CMP was investigating "violent felonies." Daleiden and Merritt believed babies were being born alive at Planned Parenthood clinics and that the organization was illegally selling fetal tissue for medical research.
In court, Planned Parenthood argued the videos were selectively edited to make it look as though employees were talking about making money off fetal tissue donations. Planned Parenthood currently operates fetal tissue programs at six clinics in California and Washington.
"David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress intentionally waged a multi-year illegal effort to manufacture a malicious campaign against Planned Parenthood,” Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, told TheHill. “The jury recognized today that those behind the 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.”
The judge overseeing the six-week long trial said the jury couldn't consider any information uncovered as a result of the video investigation.
"At least three congressional committees and law enforcement officials in 13 states launched investigations into Planned Parenthood after Daleiden’s group released the footage in 2015. None of the probes confirmed any wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood," Fox News reported.
CMP and Daleiden were upset with the decision, saying justice was not served.
"Justice was not done today in San Francisco. 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, a biased judge with close Planned Parenthood ties spent six weeks trying to influence the jury with pre-determined rulings and suppressed the video evidence, all in order to rubber-stamp Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit attack on the First Amendment," Daleiden said in a statement. "This 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."
Daleiden’s lawyer, Peter Breen, said he plans to challenge the ruling on First Amendment grounds. According to Breen, the compensatory damages are a result of the videos being published online.
“We believe the compensatory damages should go to zero on appeal,” he said, adding that he found it ludicrous the jury found the defendants had participated in a racketeering conspiracy.