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Indicted CMP Director, Employee Will Turn Themselves In

Two indicted members of the Center for Medical Progress, who helped secretly record videos targeting Planned Parenthood, plan to turn themselves in, their attorney announced Tuesday, the Washington Post's "Post Nation" reports.

The Harris Sherriff's Office issued arrest warrants for CMP Director David Daleiden and CMP employee Sandra Merritt following their indictment by a grand jury in Harris County, Texas. Murphy Klasing, the lawyer for Daleiden and Merritt, said the two plan to travel from California to Texas, where they intend to turn themselves in.

According to Klasing, the pair plans to post bond so that they will not have to spend time in jail. Klasing did not specify when Daleiden and Merritt would travel to Texas, but he said they intended to do so quickly (Paquette/Somashekhar, "Post Nation," Washington Post, 1/26).

Background

Over the summer, CMP began releasing a series of misleading videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donation. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. Further, a report by a research and corporate intelligence firm, Fusion GPS, found that the videos were manipulated.

Following the release of the videos, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) called for the Harris County district attorney to launch a criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. The Harris County grand jury tasked with investigating Planned Parenthood cleared the organization of any wrongdoing and instead indicted Daleiden and Merritt.

Both Daleiden and Merritt have been indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a government record. In addition, Daleiden has been indicted on a misdemeanor charge related to buying human organs. Warrants were issued for Daleiden and Merritt, each with a $10,000 bond.

According to the record-tampering charges, Daleiden and Merritt created false California drivers licenses and used them with intent to defraud when they met with PPGC officials in April 2015. Josh Schaffer, a lawyer representing PPGC, said the misdemeanor charge likely is related to emails Daleiden sent to Planned Parenthood in June 2015, in which he offered to pay $1,600 per fetal tissue sample. Schaffer said Planned Parenthood did not reply to the offer.

The charge of tampering with a governmental record carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while the misdemeanor charge carries a maximum punishment of one year in jail (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/26).

NYT: Officials Need To Undo Damage Stemming From Investigations

Investigations into Planned Parenthood repeatedly "have found no evidence of wrongdoing," and "a grand jury in Harris County ... went a step further" on Monday, when "it indicted two members" of CMP, a New York Times editorial states.

However, "despite all the evidence," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), "said on Monday that the state attorney general's office and the State Health and Human Services Commission would continue investigating Planned Parenthood," the editorial notes. According to the editorial, "This is a purely political campaign of intimidation and persecution meant to destroy an organization whose mission to serve women's health care needs the governor abhors."

The editorial states, "Neither the videos nor the many investigations that followed have found any evidence that Planned Parenthood employees offered to sell fetal tissue for a profit." According to the editorial, investigations into Planned Parenthood by the federal House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and 12 states, including Texas, "have found no wrongdoing" by the organization.

"Nonetheless, the videos have already had a destructive effect" in Texas and other states, such as Ohio, that "have moved to defund Planned Parenthood," the editorial continues. The editorial states, "These efforts threaten to deprive the country's [lower income] women of health services they need, including cancer screenings, contraceptive care and sexually transmitted infection testing. In many parts of the country, Planned Parenthood is the only source of contraceptive services for low-income women."

According to the editorial, "The indictments should cause politicians to back away from an anti-abortion group that will stop at nothing to attack Planned Parenthood." The penalties Daleiden and Merritt face "will not undo the damage the videos have already done to Planned Parenthood and women's health and reproductive rights," the editorial notes, but "state and federal officials who care about the truth should work to remedy that damage in any way they can" (New York Times, 1/26).