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A federal jury found Friday that an anti-abortion activist had illegally recorded workers secretly at Planned Parenthood clinics and was liable for violating federal and state laws. The jury ordered him and others to pay nearly $1 million in damages.
After a six-week civil trial, the San Francisco jury found David Daleiden had trespassed on private property and had committed other crimes in recording the 2015 videos. He and the Center for Medical Progress contended that Planned Parenthood illegally sells fetal tissue, which the group says it does not do.
Daleiden and a co-defendant, Sandra Merritt, are set to go on trial starting Dec. 6 on 14 counts each of invasion of privacy. They have pleaded not guilty and argue they are undercover journalists shielded from prosecution.
Planned Parenthood sued the activists as part of what the group called “a multiyear illegal effort to manufacture a malicious campaign.”
“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 organization’s acting president and CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson, said in a statement.
Daleiden said the jury had reached the verdict after 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.”
The judge barred the release of some of the videos.
Daleiden and Merritt sneaked into numerous Planned Parenthood meetings and other abortion rights gatherings and shot undercover videos of their attempts to buy fetal material. They published the videos in 2015.
Planned Parenthood says it doesn’t sell fetal material for profit and charged only modest expenses to cover costs of donating it for medical research. The organization stopped seeking reimbursement for its shipping costs, and it never faced charges.
Planned Parenthood said punitive and compensatory damages from Friday’s ruling totaled $2.3 million.