Judge Dismisses Misdemeanor Charge Against Pro-Life Planned Parenthood Video Activist

(Photo: Reuters/Ruthy Munoz)Anti-abortion activist David Daleiden speaks at a news conference outside a court in Houston, Texas, February 4, 2016. Daleiden, leader of the California-based Center for Medical Progress, which released the secretly filmed videos used to accuse Planned Parenthood of trading in aborted fetal tissue, appeared at a Houston court and was offered a probation deal on charges including using a fake government document, prosecutors said.

A Texas judge has dropped a misdemeanor charge against pro-life activist David Daleiden, the man behind last year's series of undercover Planned Parenthood baby body parts videos, after he was indicted earlier this year by a Harris County grand jury.

In January, a grand jury responsible for investigating the purported illegal compensation practices of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston instead indicted Daleiden, the founder of the Center for Medical Progress, claiming that he tried to illegally purchase fetal tissue from the abortion clinic during the undercover investigation.

In addition to the misdemeanor charge, Daleiden and his associate, Sandra Merritt, were indicted on felony charges of tampering with governmental records because they used fake drivers licenses to access the abortion facility.

But on Monday, a Texas judge dismissed the misdemeanor charge against Daleiden on the grounds that the indictment was "defective" and rendered void by the grand jury's failure to negate an exception to Texas Penal Code Section 48.02.

Although the misdemeanor against Daleiden was dropped, the felony charge, which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence, remains pending before a different branch of the Harris County Court.

In a statement, the Center for Medical Progress said Judge Diane Bull's dismissal of the misdemeanor charge is the "latest confirmation that the indictments from a runaway grand jury in Houston were a politically-motivated sham all along."

Daleiden's legal team has maintained for months that the grand jury never voted to indict Planned Parenthood and "colluded" with Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast's lawyer, Josh Schaffer, to indict Daleiden.

"In finding that the indictment was void on its face, Bull's ruling directly contradicts the district attorney's argument that the indictment was valid despite the DA's collusion with Planned Parenthood," the CMP statement argues. "The dismissal of the first indictment today sends a strong message to Planned Parenthood and their political cronies that colluding to suppress the First Amendment rights of citizen journalists will never work."

The statement adds that CMP follows "all applicable laws" while conducting its undercover work regarding the abortion industry.

"[A]s more details about Planned Parenthood's contracts for aborted baby parts come to light, it's clear that Planned Parenthood and their business partners like StemExpress are the ones who are guilty of trafficking in human body parts," the statement asserts.

Although Daleiden's felony charge remains pending, Peter Breen, one of Daleiden's lawyers from the Thomas More Society, said in a statement shared with The Christian Post that the felony charge should also be dropped.

"The Harris County prosecutors were in such a rush to criminalize David Daleiden that they did not properly obtain grand jury approval of each of the elements of the charged misdemeanor," Breen said. "All charges against Daleiden and his investigators should be dismissed, based on the evidence that Harris County District Attorney's prosecutors colluded with Planned Parenthood to secure these indictments.

"Planned Parenthood's illegitimate aim is clear: it hopes to turn attention away from the abortion industry's baby parts trafficking, by instead attacking the man who exposed its illegal practices," Breen added. "The Harris County District Attorney's office should reject that aim and prosecute Planned Parenthood, not David Daleiden and his investigators."

Following the news of the judge's ruling, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement that her office does not plan to appeal the decision.

"The basis for the judge's ruling was not raised by the defense at any time," Anderson said. "Our office remains focused on the felony charge pending in the 338th District Court."

The judge's decision was celebrated by a number of national pro-life organizations including Live Action and Students for Life of America.

"This is a huge win for the protection of First Amendment rights for all citizen journalists and a smack down of bogus charges brought by politically-motivated officials trying to cover up the heinous crimes of Planned Parenthood and StemExpress," Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins said in a statement.

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith