Grand jury indicts producers of Planned Parenthood videos

AUSTIN, Texas -- A grand jury has indicted two anti-abortion activists who made undercover videos alleging Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit, and said the abortion provider committed no wrong.

See Full Article

The grand jury in Houston, which investigated Planned Parenthood after the Center for Medical Progress released its undercover footage last year, indicted the centre's founder and another activist on Monday -- the first criminal charges against anyone in the anti-abortion group since the videos surfaced last year.

The videos provoked outrage among Republican leaders across the U.S. and prompted investigations by Republican-led committees in Congress and by Republican-led state governments. Planned Parenthood officials have denied any wrongdoing and say the videos are misleading.

Grand juries meet behind closed doors to consider evidence about whether someone should be charged with a crime. Unlike trial juries, grand juries don't decide if someone is guilty of criminal charges that have been brought against them.

Centre for Medical Progress CEO David Daleiden and activist Sandra Merritt each face a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Daleiden also faces a misdemeanour count related to purchasing human organs.

The centre's footage from the Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston showed people pretending to be from a company called BioMax that procures fetal tissue for research touring the facility. Planned Parenthood has said that the fake company sent an agreement offering to pay the "astronomical amount" of $1,600 for organs from a fetus. The clinic said it never entered into the agreement and ceased contact with BioMax because it was "disturbed" by the overtures.

In a statement announcing the indictment, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson did not provide details on the charges, including which records were allegedly tampered with. Her office said it could not disclose more information, and it was unclear when the indictments would be made public.

"We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast," Anderson, an elected Republican, said in her statement. "As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us."

Daleiden issued a statement saying his group "uses the same undercover techniques" as investigative journalists 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," he said.

Planned Parenthood has said a few clinics in two states used to accept legally allowed reimbursement for the costs of providing tissue donated by some of its abortion clients. In October, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept reimbursement and would cover the costs itself.

The group called Monday's indictments the latest in a string of victories since the videos were released, saying 11 state investigations have cleared the nation's largest abortion provider of claims that it profited from fetal tissue donation.

"This is absolutely great news because it is a demonstration of what Planned Parenthood has said from the very beginning: We follow every law and regulation and these anti-abortion activists broke multiple laws to try and spread lies," said spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

The Texas video was the fifth released by the Center for Medical Progress.

Despite the centre's lofty name, public filings suggest only a small number of people are affiliated with the non-profit, none of whom are scientists or physicians engaged in advancing medical treatments. The people named as its top officers are longtime anti-abortion activists with a history of generating headlines.

Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood sued the centre in a California federal court, alleging extensive criminal misconduct. The lawsuit says the centre's videos were the result of numerous illegalities, including making recordings without consent, registering false identities with state agencies and violating nondisclosure agreements.

After the lawsuit was filed, Daleiden told The Associated Press he looked forward to confronting Planned Parenthood in court.

Associated Press writers Juan A. Lozano in Houston, Will Weissert in Austin and David Crary in New York contributed to this report



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Weak or non-existent El Nino to contribute to above-normal hurricane season

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Warm water temperatures and a weak or non-existent El Nino will contribute to an above-normal hurricane season this year, the Canadian Hurricane Centre said Thursday. Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist at the Halifax-based centre, said figures released by the U.S. Source
  • Monstrous cyclones discovered over Jupiter's poles [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. - Monstrous cyclones are churning over Jupiter’s poles, until now a largely unexplored region that is more turbulent than scientists expected. NASA’s Juno spacecraft spotted the chaotic weather at the top and bottom of Jupiter once it began skimming the cloud tops last year, surprising researchers who assumed the giant gas planet would be relatively boring and uniform down low. Source
  • U.S. appeals court deals blow to Trump administration travel ban [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination,” a federal appeals court said Thursday in ruling against the executive order targeting six Muslim-majority countries. Source
  • Boston airport massage therapist charged with raping customer inside Logan Airport Be Relax studio

    World News Toronto Sun
    BOSTON — A massage therapist has been arrested on charges he raped a customer inside a massage studio at Boston’s Logan Airport. Police say 29-year-old Darnell Williams, of Boston, was arraigned Thursday on a count of rape. Source
  • Mom accused of smothering baby while high, drunk

    World News Toronto Sun
    MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Authorities say a Pennsylvania woman under the influence of alcohol and marijuana rolled over on her 2-month-old son and passed out, smothering him to death. Arissa Ward, of Middletown, faces charges of involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child in the Dec. Source
  • Man arrested in case of dog found buried alive near Montreal that later died

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Quebec provincial police say a man has been arrested for animal cruelty in the case of a dog that died after being found buried alive south of Montreal this week. Sgt. Ingrid Asselin says the man in his 40s came to investigators himself, was questioned and released with a promise to appear at a later date. Source
  • Quebec resort in town of Charlevoix to host 2018 G7 meetings

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Canada will play host to next year's meeting of G7 leaders at a remote luxury resort in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, The Canadian Press has learned. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to make the announcement at some point during this year's G7 meetings, which get underway Friday in Sicily. Source
  • Brooklyn prison guards charged with sexually abusing female inmates

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — A federal prison guard supervisor charged with repeatedly raping a female inmate who he knew spoke little English and would be turned over to immigration authorities was among three guards arrested Thursday in a prison sexual abuse scandal, authorities said. Source
  • NATO, the world's biggest military alliance, explained

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- It sounds strange to characterize the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a huge gun club, but the comparison can be useful in understanding the world's biggest military alliance. Like many gun clubs, NATO actually has no weapons of its own. Source
  • Police investigating after 200 frozen turkey pot pies missing in Ontario

    Canada News CTV News
    INGERSOLL, Ont. -- Police are trying to find whoever stole 200 frozen pies from a church in an Ontario community. Investigators say the individual portion size turkey pot pies were taken from a church in Ingersoll, Ont. Source