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Battle to defend undercover journalist exposing Planned Parenthood continues



Daleiden with Thomas More attorneys | Crisis Magazine photo

SAN FRANCISCO – In two civil lawsuits and a criminal prosecution, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society continues to defend the embattled David Daleiden against the powerful California abortion industry. Daleiden is the undercover journalist who, in 2015, published videos exposing the abortion industry’s involvement in illegal baby body parts trafficking.

On June 5, 2019, a Ninth Circuit panel announced it would not consider an appeal of a nearly $200,000 penalty levied on Daleiden and his criminal defense attorneys for using the video footage in the furtherance of his defense. The federal judge presiding over related civil lawsuits, District Judge William Orrick, had held that criminal defense counsel’s use of the videos violated a gag order he imposed in one of the federal civil actions. Daleiden and his defense counsel appealed, arguing that Orrick had improperly imposed a criminal contempt penalty without granting the accused due process and that the federal civil injunction should not apply to Daleiden’s state criminal proceeding.

The Ninth Circuit declined to consider both that appeal and Daleiden’s request that the federal civil cases be reassigned to a different judge in light of Orrick’s longstanding, well-publicized support of Planned Parenthood. But the Ninth Circuit found that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal because the district court’s order was not a final judgment.

Thomas More Society Special Counsel Sarah Pitlyk, serving on Daleiden’s defense team responded, “In our view, unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit misread the district court order. It saw things in it that weren’t there and overlooked things that were, with the unhappy consequence of upholding two injustices to our client.”

“First, Mr. Daleiden and his criminal defense counsel remain subject to an exorbitant penalty for doing nothing other than trying to defend him against baseless, politically motivated criminal charges,” Pitlyk explained. “Even worse than that,” she added, “the Ninth Circuit also essentially ratified the federal court’s improper interference in Mr. Daleiden’s state criminal case, tying the defense’s hands going forward.”

Orrick issued the gag order at the request of the National Abortion Federation in a civil lawsuit the abortion lobby brought against Daleiden in federal court. However, the judicially banned video footage provides key evidence for Daleiden’s defense in his criminal prosecution by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has been closely allied with, and politically supported by, Planned Parenthood.

“It is a travesty that Mr. Daleiden’s accusers can use the video footage at the heart of these cases against him – both in court and in the court of public opinion – but Mr. Daleiden’s legal team cannot use the same footage in his defense, even in his own court filings, without fear of an entirely different tribunal imposing punitive fines,” Pitlyk elaborated. “Holding Mr. Daleiden and his defense counsel in contempt under these circumstances flies in the face of the Sixth Amendment and fundamental principles of fairness. This is not how the criminal justice system is supposed to work.”

For more than three years now, the not-for-profit Thomas More Society has been defending David Daleiden against legal actions seeking to punish and silence him after his exposé of the abortion industry’s trafficking in fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood Federation of America and multiple Planned Parenthood affiliates have brought their own civil lawsuit against him, in addition to National Abortion Federation’s suit, even as abortion-friendly public officials have pressed criminal charges, most notably those that he is currently fighting in San Francisco and earlier charges in Houston, Texas, which were ultimately dismissed.


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