Investigative journalist David Daleiden has filed a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., accusing them and others of violating his civil rights.
Daleiden and his organization, the Center for Medical Progress, filed the suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Tuesday.
The suit concerns the treatment that Daleiden and others at CMP said they experienced after they released undercover videos in 2015 that show Planned Parenthood abortionists and other providers discussing methods they use to procure fetal tissue and intact organs and limbs to sell to research labs.
In addition to Harris and Planned Parenthood, the complaint also names California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the National Abortion Federation, StemExpress and others as defendants.
In the complaint, Daleiden and CMP accuse the defendants of “a brazen, unprecedented, and ongoing conspiracy to selectively use California’s video recording laws as a political weapon to silence disfavored speech.”
“Daleiden became the first journalist ever to be criminally prosecuted under California’s recording law … because his investigation revealed and he published ‘shock[ing]’ content that California’s Attorney General and the private party coconspirators wanted to cover up,” the suit argues.
“Defendants seek their ‘pound of flesh’ from Mr. Daleiden and to chill other journalists from investigating and reporting on that same content.”
Harris, who served as attorney general of California from 2011-2017 and recently ran as a Democratic candidate for president, was specifically accused of refusing to investigate their claims against Planned Parenthood due to her own ties to the organization. Instead, she announced that she planned to prosecute Daleiden.
Soon after, Harris ordered the 2016 raid on Daleiden's apartment where his laptop, hard drives and yet-to-be released undercover videos were seized.
That same year, Harris also used her Senate campaign website to encourage supporters to sign a petition in support of Planned Parenthood after Republican members of Congress warned they'd be investigating the abortion business following the release of CMP's series of undercover videos.
“Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups have donated tens of thousands of dollars to the political campaigns of AG Harris and AG Becerra and provided significant other political assistance,” Daleiden's complaint adds. “It was this special patronage relationship and the political interests and viewpoints it was built around ... that led Defendants Harris and Becerra to seek to punish the content of Plaintiffs’ speech.”
Harmeet K. Dhillon, lead counsel for the pro-life activists, said in a statement released Wednesday that “federal civil rights statutes were enacted in the wake of the darkest periods in our nation’s history.”
“They are well-suited for the current civil rights crisis we face, a time when powerful politicians allow their special interest patrons to custom-order prosecutions that violate fundamental constitutional rights,” Dhillon said.
Since 2015, Daleiden and other people connected to CMP and its undercover videos have found themselves facing several legal battles, including criminal charges for their undercover activism.
In 2017, Becerra announced an arrest warrant for Daleiden that included 15 criminal charges, including unlawful use of forged identities to covertly record their discussions at public conferences and meetings.
“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra said at the time. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”
Last month, U.S. District Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California released an order compelling Daleiden and CMP to pay more than $1.2 million in damages to Planned Parenthood.
In addition to issuing an injunction banning those named from attending Planned Parenthood events, Orrick also found them liable for large sums of money, including $1,259,370 in damages related to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, plus other damages and attorneys’ fees.
“… the illegal and fraudulent prongs of the UCL are satisfied given the jury’s verdict that defendants engaged in numerous illegal and fraudulent acts in California and emanating from California, against California-based plaintiffs and others, committed in violation of California law, Federal law, and the laws of other jurisdictions,” Orrick wrote.