Daleiden Walks Away from Sting Charges but Civil Suits Await

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July 26, 2016; CBS News

NPQ has reported on the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion nonprofit and its founder, David Daleiden, who became famous for recording and posting videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood clinic officials negotiating the sale of aborted fetuses and fetal components. A Texas grand jury indicted Daleiden and a colleague in January for tampering with a government record (making and using fake IDs) in order to carry out the subterfuge. Daleiden was additionally indicted on a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs. The misdemeanor was dismissed in June, and on Monday a Texas judge dismissed the tampering with a government record charges against both Daleiden and Merritt “upon the request of the Harris County prosecutor’s office,” according to multiple media reports.

One interesting aspect of the legal proceedings is the legal representation that Daleiden, Merritt, and the CMP are receiving from conservative nonprofits. Attorneys from both the Thomas More Society and the Life Legal Defense Foundation have been working on the cases, according to the Christian news site OneNewsNow.com. Though it’s not the typical example of nonprofit collaboration, it appears to have been effective in this case.

Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress still face at least three lawsuits (from StemExpress, the National Abortion Federation, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America) related to the undercover “sting” videos of NAF conference attendees, Planned Parenthood staff and StemExpress contractors. It is unclear whether the Texas judge’s decision will inspire CMP to publish additional videos on its website, or whether the controversial U.S. House “Select Investigative Panel” will hold new hearings that include CMP and Daleiden’s participation and supplement the “Interim Update” released earlier this month.

Long before Daleiden and CMP’s videos were made and became known, NPQ’s Rick Cohen wrote about the perils of nonprofit organizations confronted with sting videos and how the practice of producing such videos cheapens public discourse. Since almost all the players on both sides of this dispute are nonprofit organizations, staff, contractors, and executives, we have an uncomfortable and unusual opportunity to see the sting video scandal and its deleterious effects play out within the nonprofit sector—with significant roles reserved for the media and the courts.—Michael Wyland