Grand Jury Move Backfires as David Daleiden Indicted

David Daleiden
David Daleiden

When a hidden-camera video was released last summer purporting to show that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling tissues from aborted fetuses, many conservative politicians saw the opportunity to expose the longtime family planning organization, which also performs abortions. Among them was Texas State Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who asked the Harris County prosecutor to open the criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood.

The move has backfired, as the grand jury that was investigating accusations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two of the abortion opponents who made undercover videos of the organization.

According to news releases, one of the leaders of the Center for Medical Progress — an anti-abortion group that made secretly recorded videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to illegally profit from the sale of fetal tissue — had been indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony, and on a misdemeanor charge related to purchasing human organs.

That would be 27-year-old David Daleiden, a 2007 Davis High School Graduate from a prominent local family. Mr. Daleiden, we learned last summer, had posed as a biotechnology representative to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and had recorded his efforts to acquire the fetal tissue for research.

Another Center for Medical Progress employee, Sandra Merritt, 62, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record.

Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merrit are accused of making and presenting fake California driver’s licenses, with the intent to defraud, for their April meeting at Planned Parenthood in Houston.

Republican lawmakers attempted to seize on this controversy last summer to strip Planned Parenthood of public funding, accusing the organization of engaging in illegal sale of body parts – a charge that the organization has denied. On Monday, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said in a statement that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing.

“As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us,” Ms. Anderson said. “All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

She declined further details of the evidence against Mr. Daleiden, citing confidentiality laws of grand jury proceedings.

Mr. Daleiden issued a statement on Monday evening, saying, “The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws. We respect the processes of the Harris County district attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”

This issue emerged as a bombshell last summer. As the New York Times reports, “The organization was forced to apologize for the casual tone that one of its officials had used to discuss a possible transfer of fetal tissue to what she believed was a legitimate medical company. But Planned Parenthood said the fees being discussed were to cover costs and were legal.”

As the Vanguard reported in July, according to an attorney for Planned Parenthood, “Over the last eight years, Mr. Daleiden has participated in at least 10 separate attacks on Planned Parenthood involving gaining access to our health centers and offices under false pretenses, taping staff (and sometimes patients) without their knowledge on at least 65 occasions (not counting this latest fraud), and misleading the public with heavily edited tapes and flat-out false charges.”

Three years ago, Mr. Daleiden allegedly “created what we now know to be a phony company called Biomax Procurement Services, which held itself out as a legitimate tissue procurement organization. Biomax then embarked on a campaign of corporate espionage with Planned Parenthood and its affiliates as its target.”

The letter continues, “The sham company used the false pretense of seeking tissue for research purposes to gain access to our facilities and staff. These fraudulent efforts appear to have been meticulously planned.” To cite one example, “Biomax set up exhibits at our National Medical Conference and our National Conference over the last couple of years.”

Mr. Daleiden engaged in secretly recording Planned Parenthood staff and patients at least 65 times over the last eight years, potentially yielding thousands of hours of recordings.

Mr. Daleiden talked to the New York Times for an article on Tuesday. He told the Times he had been an anti-abortion activist for more than a decade, forming an anti-abortion group at his school.

He continued his work as a student at Claremont McKenna college, where he got a degree in government.

According to some background information, Mr. Daleiden was temporarily banned from the Pomona College campus after videotaping a presentation by Planned Parenthood of Los Angeles public affairs manager Serena Josel and asking “tough questions.” The tough questions were apparently asking a “Planned Parenthood official there for proof that the group was covering up statutory rape.”

In 2012 while serving as the Research Director for Live Action, David Daleiden participated in a hoax with a “sting” that included establishing a fake medical website, which raised concern from the California Attorney General.

Mr. Daleiden worked for Live Action in college and became director of research in 2008. In his Live Action bio, Mr. Daleiden attributed his anti-abortion militancy to seeing images of aborted fetuses as a teenager. But in the interview, he also said, “I am the child of a crisis pregnancy.”

He told the Times that “his parents, who are now divorced, were juniors in college when his mother became pregnant. He said he had grown up ‘culturally Catholic,’ that is, not particularly religious.”

The Times notes that he now calls Pope Francis “my inspiration,” although Mr. Daleiden’s activism long predates the pope’s ascension, and he points to Francis’ “emphasis on just being active, on going outside of yourself to accomplish things.”

In 2013, Mr. Daleiden formed the non-profit, the Sacramento-based Center for Medical Progress. The Internal Revenue Service granted the Center for Medical Progress tax-exempt status, allowing donors to deduct contributions, as a nonprofit under the agency’s category for “Diseases, Disorders, Medical Disciplines: Biomedicine, Bioengineering.”

Meanwhile, it does not appear the grand jury clearance of Planned Parenthood will stop efforts to investigate their actions.

“Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement. “The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

The state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said in a statement, “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry. The state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is ongoing.”

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick also issued a statement downplaying the significance of the indictment and instead stating that the recent anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision was “a solid reminder of the over 50 million innocent lives that have been lost to abortions.”

He added, “I will never be deterred from standing up to fight to protect the unborn.”

“These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda,” Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Monday. “As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it’s become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we’re glad they’re being held accountable.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. sisterhood

    A wonderful victory for people everywhere who want to plan their parenthood. I do feel bad for his Mom. I don’t know Gina personally, but I have heard nothing but nice comments about her from my pals in Davis.

    I hope this young man takes the time to reflect upon his actions. What I would like to see as a sentence for him: volunteer for a few months at a W.I.C. facility. There are over 1.5 million families in CA living at or below 130% of poverty level who cannot afford to adequately feed their children aged five and under.

    As an alternative, volunteer at a WEAVE shelter, or a homeless family shelter.

    1. Dave Hart

      It has been pointed out to me that David Daleiden will do very well by this “indictment”.  The best outcome for him is that he is actually arrested, tried and convicted.  After a big show trial and the attendant coverage by all forms of media, he will get a suspended, or a highly reduced sentence allowing him to be sufficiently martyred in the right wing circles in which he moves to then be hired for six figures to be a consultant in some anti-women’s choice think tank.  He wins.  He doesn’t have to reflect on anything.  He not only believes in inserting his face into other people’s private health business, but he will leverage his career by doing so.

  2. Barack Palin

    LOL, so has the Vanguard changed its view and is now touting Grand Jury decisions?  I thought the Vanguard felt the system was outdated and unfair where prosecutors were only able to present with no defense present? That prosecutors were able to lead the jurists.

    One thing I’m not understanding about the indictment, the Grand Jury is accusing Daleiden of a “charge related to purchasing human organs” when he was only offering to buy as part of his undercover investigation.  They were never for resale or going to be used for any other purpose.  That charge sounds really weak and leads me to think that this Grand Jury may have been tainted.  We will see, this will all play out.

    1. David Greenwald

      Where do you see a tout?  In fact where do you see any editorial content? I’m actually troubled by some of the charges here, but I haven’t weighed in on that yet

      1. Barack Palin

        Agreed, it was more of a news piece and not an editorial.  But be honest, you must be very happy with this Grand Jury decision.  I’m looking forward to your editorial.

        1. Tia Will


          But be honest, you must be very happy with this Grand Jury decision.”

          I do not speak for David, but as the most involved writer on the accusations made against Planned Parenthood, having watched every tape in its posted entirety and commented on them as released,  I think I have earned my credentials to speak on this issue.

          As posted above, I am not at all happy with this outcome. Not because the individuals involved have been indicted but because they were successful in forcing a judicial outcome when a collaborative process would have done far more good overall.

          The best way to prevent Planned Parenthood ( or any other organization ) from performing abortions is to prevent the demand for abortions. This will never be accomplished by blaming, shaming, and punishing women and providers. It will be done by providing them with safe, free and easily available reversible contraception and educating them in its use. Daleiden and companions could be outstanding spokesmen for this cause, but instead have chosen a futile and destructive path.

        2. David Greenwald

          Not really. I think criminalizing a political dispute is problematic. I have a lot of respect for Gina personally and professionally, and I know this will cause her great hardship. So the only thing that gives me pleasure here is that the GJ cleared PP of any wrongdoing. Other than that, there is a lot of potential harm here.

          BTW, I can’t agree that the GJ was tainted. You have a conservative county and a Republican prosecutor.

        3. Barack Palin

          I know it’s conservative Texas, but Houston and Harris County are liberal Democrat enclaves.  Not too long ago I remember the Democrat Houston mayor tried to subpoena pastor sermons over some gay rights issue for which she later backed off.  So a biased or tainted Grand Jury isn’t out of the question in this area.  Also there’s often problems in Texas of how the Grand juries are selected.  Sometimes they’re random, but other times they’re handpicked.  So like I said, this will all play out once it starts getting scrutinized.

        1. David Greenwald

          The backfire refers to the intent of the Lt. Governor not David Daleiden and it clearly did backfire. They thought they were going to get Planned Parenthood in this.

          1. David Greenwald

            I guess I respectfully disagree, second and third sentences: “Among them was Texas State Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who asked the Harris County prosecutor to open the criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood. The move has backfired, as the grant jury that was investigating accusations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two of the abortion opponents who made undercover videos of the organization.” I will readily acknowledge there are times when things are more ambiguous, but this time, I thought I was fairly clear and straight forward with the title directly tying into the lead of the article.

    2. Tia Will

      My first thought when I heard the news of Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt’s indictment yesterday was “It’s about time”. My second thought was “how sad”.

      Here we have two individuals who are obviously very committed to a cause in which they believe deeply. I share their cause. I would love to see, and have worked my entire career to reduce the number of abortions. And I know how it can be done. in a non adversarial fashion. The way to reduce the number of abortions is to prevent unintended and unwanted pregnancies. When I started in medicine 30 years ago, the best we had available was the birth control pill which if used as prescribed will prevent 90% of pregnancies. Now we have three reversible modalities that will reduce the risk of pregnancy to < 1/100 per year.

      Think how many abortions might be prevented if these dedicated individuals were to have spent their time, money, energy  and creativity coming up with ways of advertising and promoting these methods to women and to lawmakers so as to make access to these means free and readily available.

      1. hpierce

        Tia… this post “scares” me, in that for  40 years, I’ve thought there could be ‘common ground’ between the extremes on ‘woman’s right to choose’.  Your concept of avoiding unwanted pregnancies (in a manner that is reversible, with no long-term health consequences), so there is no need for abortions, appeals to me.  I do not understand, and oppose, “pro-abortion”… yet that is how many frame themselves.  I also believe abstinence is a “choice” one can make.

        I hope we can find “common ground”.

        1. SODA

          Morning hpierce!

          I have always been pro ‘choice’ which I do NOT consider the same as pro abortion although some may disagree. I doubt that I would elect for an abortion myself however I believe others should have the choice. To me I think that is grounds for commonality….think you are agreeing ? And Tia’s point to put emphasis on birth control and family planning so as to decrease the number of abortions is absolutely the right way of thinking. Do we know what the group in question thinks of this approach?

        2. hpierce

          SODA… was going to give a wordy response, but fortunately did not hit the “post” button, before I realized it could lead to a terribly ‘off-topic’ space.

          I have no clue where the protagonists are “coming from”… yet I expect that none are seeking “common ground”.

        3. Tia Will


          I do not understand, and oppose, “pro-abortion”… yet that is how many frame themselves”

          I honestly do not know who you are referring to here. I know many, many people who support a woman’s choice to choose whether to continue or whether to abort and unintended pregnancy. I do not know anyone who “frame’s themselves” as pro-abortion. Can you cite your source ?

    3. sisterhood

      Interesting that a self-described mom or dad of a gynecologist would find any of this article funny enough to laugh out loud. I see no humour in any of this.

      “…prosecutors were able to lead the jurists.”


      He made offers to buy fetal tissue and then cut & spliced his sensationlistic juvenile tapes to make it look like a negotiation was taking place. He offered. What don’t you understand? Maybe you should discuss this matter with your son.

      1. Barack Palin

        Interesting that a self-described mom or dad of a gynecologist would find any of this article funny enough to laugh out loud. I see no humour in any of this.

        Once again your reading comprehension is lacking.  What I was laughing at was the Vanguard has in the past discredited the Grand Jury process.  I didn’t see any of that in this article but David has said he’ll follow up with his thoughts.  So I wasn’t laughing at anything about abortion, PP or Daleiden.  Got it?

        “…prosecutors were able to lead the jurists.”

        This is something that David has also brought up about the Grand Jury process, that only the prosecutors get to present, no defense lawyers are present.

        He made offers to buy fetal tissue and then cut & spliced his sensationlistic juvenile tapes to make it look like a negotiation was taking place. He offered. What don’t you understand? Maybe you should discuss this matter with your son.

        Daleiden was only offering to buy the tissue as part of his undercover investigation.  That’s what undercover investigating is, like someone trying to buy drugs off a pusher to prove that person is a drug dealer.  He wasn’t trying to buy tissue for resale or any type of use.   I don’t give you permission to talk about my son so I’ll ask you to please refrain.  You don’t see me bringing your family into the discussions even though you have often offered up your personal stories over and over and over and over………..

        1. Davis Progressive

          when i actually agree with barack palin, shudder the day.  offering to buy the tissue is only a crime if he is intent on buying the tissue.  if he’s just trying to expose the wrong doing, it’s not a crime.  this is a colossal waste of time.

  3. Biddlin

    Abstinence is a “choice” one can make and many, as teenagers,do, but so few achieve it as to make such belief fanciful, in the light of reality.  94% of Americans report premarital sex. The median age for first sexual encounter, 17. For first marriage, 26. Last count,  there are three living shakers.

    1. hpierce

      OK… do those statistics account for the definition of “sex”, or the folk who have any sex before they marry, but were completely monogamous (only had sex with the one they married)?  Guess I and my SO may be “6 percenters”.

      We married before we were 24.

        1. hpierce

          Leave it to you, BP, to take a personal, heartfelt comment, to spin it for your tripe and/or political ‘spin’.

          Reagan was, by many accounts, “active” with multiple women, two of whom he married… arguably Harding (or, following your lead, your slant, ‘Hardon’)… JFK, FDR (and his wife), Jackson, Jefferson, etc.  Perhaps Buchanan, but probably not with a woman.

          Your relevant point?

        2. Frankly

          OMG… you just attempted to connect Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton’s storied history of marital infidelity and sexual misconduct!   Did you really just do that?

      1. Barack Palin

        hpierce, whenever someone brings up “the definition of “sex” I think most people automatically think of Clinton, just like the definition of “is”.  Relax, it was just a joke.  Your whole Reagan and other presidents retort is what isn’t relevant.

        1. hpierce

          Oh… your comment was meant as a “bon mot”, not to be taken seriously?  Je comprends… I now expect you to cut the same slack to myself, and others, when we do that…

  4. Frankly

    This is a win for the anti-abortion activists and will be yet another hit to Planned Parenthood and all the politicians that have aligned themselves with that semi-vile organization.

    I think the Texas Grand Jury gave The Center for Medical Progress and Republicans a gift.  The non-profit will get a bunch of free media coverage again bringing the practices of Planned Parenthood to light, and Democrats will again be on their heels trying to explain how they justify sending millions of our tax dollars to that semi-vile organization.

    1. Don Shor

      Democrats will again be on their heels trying to explain how they justify sending millions of our tax dollars to that semi-vile organization.

      Not a win at all for anyone. But it is very easy to justify tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood, and there is nothing vile or “semi”-vile about them.

      1. hpierce

        Nuance… PP does great work on women health… the abortion aspect, not so much, unless the abortion is medically appropriate, in my view.  PP is not a ‘black/white’ [no, not meant as racial] issue relating to public funding.  My understanding is that PP also helps couples who are having difficulties conceiving… am getting so tired of hearing mainly from the two ends of the bell curve…

        1. Don Shor

          75% of their public funding goes for Medicaid reimbursement for basic services.
          They receive government grants, mostly Title X funds, for family planning services, and some for HIV treatment, some for SNAP and WIC programs, some to assist victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse. A couple of small grants for emergency preparedness.
          They provide abortions. It is illegal to use federal funds for that purpose. They receive about a third of their budget from private donations, from hundreds of thousands of private citizens as well as some of the large charitable trusts.
          Reduction or elimination of federal funds to Planned Parenthood would have an immediate and very adverse effect on women’s health care.

  5. sisterhood

     “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry. The state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is ongoing.”

    Perhaps they should spend as much time trying to figure out what to do about child abuse, including moms who drink and do drugs during their unwanted pregnancies, child hunger, and poverty in their state.

        1. Adam Smith

          I think it’s a helpful reminder to   keithvb (and others who  deplore Mr. Delaiden as dishonest for misrepresentation of his identity and  purpose and for attempting  to “trap” an unsuspecting entity) that there is a long history   in this country of going undercover to expose  certain hard to prove actions are taking place.   Some Presidential candidates even tout it as courage and strength.

        2. Barack Palin

          Adam Smith is correct.  This biased grand jury indicted two people for their undercover investigation that many others have done in our country’s history for which they were given accolades for their good journalism.  These are phony trumped up charges that will  never stick.

  6. oopsididitagain

    So I personally see this a little different. Maybe it was all the LSD I did in the 80’s. The Motive for this was to bring into the light the practice of selling aborted fetal tissue. PP stated “We abide by the laws that allow providers to be reimbursed for the costs of processing tissue donated by women who have had abortions”. So in fact they don’t deny it. They just do it legally. The funny thing is I’ve talk to 8 women who have had to make that hard choice and not one of them was ever informed that their so called donation was taking place.  I have No doubt that somewhere in the 23 papers one signs for services it is in there somewhere. 

    The indictment is the making of a fake ID hell half of UCD’s freshman population is guilty of that.           

    1. Barack Palin

      The indictment is the making of a fake ID hell half of UCD’s freshman population is guilty of that.      

      Yes, between that and the “charge related to purchasing human organs” for which they knew why they were offering to buy them makes this whole indictment look like a political witch hunt.

      1. Tia Will


        Witch hunt indeed. It pales in comparison to the “witch hunt” that Planned Parenthood associates were subjected to including investigations and defunding of those affiliates who never have engaged in tissue donation and even those who do not provide the service of abortion. How anyone can justify defunding an organization that does not provide either of these services is beyond me, unless of course the goal is really to limit health care to women in need.

  7. ryankelly

    His response to a lawsuit filed against him is “Game on.”  This is a game for him.  Maybe a criminal trial will make him reconsider his actions and methods, but likely not.


  8. Davis Progressive

    i don’t know why the vanguard even bothers with these stories, no one can stay on topic.  i think the indictment is weak.  what evidence will they have that dd actually intended to purchase body parts?  the fake id stuff is a low misdemeanor, not really worth pursuing.  this is all political, but then again, i guess the lt gov brought this on himself by trying to be too clever.

    1. Biddlin

      Yeah, too bad that the best case scenario is a small fine and stern lecture, but con-men  can be counted on to re-offend. I’m  glad I got to see a good picture of the guy. What a punim! I’d sic the dogs on that guy if he rang my bell.

    2. Dave Hart

      The indictment and arrest warrant issued for Daleiden is as much about the forging of a driver’s license or other identification and the procuring of credit cards under a false name.  Forget the fetal parts issue.  That’s the weakest part of the case against him.  Unfortunately, he can’t be prosecuted for being a creep.  It’s not illegal to be a creep. Also, David of the Vanguard, why not do a little reporting on the name of the local person whose identity was stolen or at least borrowed for the false credit cards. She was a former classmate of Daleiden’s. I wonder how she feels about this jerk. Daleiden is certainly immoral if not illegal.

  9. Barack Palin

    This should get very interesting:

    Prosecutor Lauren Reeder serves on the board of a group that is under criminal investigation, but pro-lifers connected to Operation Rescue, who also assisted in the making of the baby part videos, charge the office’s handling of a previous abortion-related case demonstrates a serious problem in the office.
    The previous grand jury investigation looked into abortionist Douglas Karpen who was accused of twisting the necks and killing babies who survived abortions in his clinic. These charges were particularly explosive in light of the recent conviction of Kermit Gosnell who had also been convicted of killing babies born alive.
    Operation Rescue had provided evidence of Karpen’s wrongdoing in the form of photos and witnesses. When the grand jury failed to indict Karpen, Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, who also had a hand in the Daleiden baby parts videos, accused the prosecutor’s office of not providing the grand jury with all the evidence. Newman also charged Harris County DA Devon Anderson with having a too-close personal relationship with Karpen’s attorney Chip Lewis.
    Based on the presence of a Planned Parenthood board member in Anderson’s office, and the failure to indict in the Karpen case, Newman and other pro-lifers asked the Texas governor to appoint a special prosecutor for the investigation into the sale of aborted baby-parts. The governor did not act.

    1. Eric Gelber

      This is non-news. In the interest of transparency, the DA’s office publicly disclosed some time ago that an assistant prosecutor in the office who is not involved in the Planned Parenthood investigation had disclosed that she was on the PP of the Gulf Coast’s board. Considering the source (, it is no surprise that the article is misleading. Also no surprise that Operation Rescue wasn’t happy with the outcome of the prior case referred to.

  10. Misanthrop

    Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder. Its okay for a day or two.

    The way I read it was the fake ID charge was the felony with a potential 20 year penalty. Seems dumb until you think about how so many crimes are carrying Les Miserables style penalties. Look at those poor cowboys up in OR. who pled out to a few months and a year then the feds come back and demand five years for burning a little open range. Its no wonder the prisons are full. Probably the statute was written with terrorism in mind instead of trying to get into a bar after a Longhorns game.

    Can the commenters please leave this guys family out of it. He is an adult and responsible for his own actions. Dragging his family through the mud is really low even by the low standards of this blog.

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