David Daleiden and his defense attorneys could land in prison over latest anti-abortion footage

David Daleiden can't stop, won't stop publishing anti-abortion sting videos.
Source: Pat Sullivan/AP
David Daleiden can't stop, won't stop publishing anti-abortion sting videos.
Source: Pat Sullivan/AP

David Daleiden, the man behind the infamous Planned Parenthood sting videos, can't stop, won't stop publishing anti-abortion propaganda — and this time, it could land him and his defense attorneys behind bars.

According to BuzzFeed, both Daleiden, 28, and his lawyers, Brentford Ferreira and Steve Cooley, seem to have ignored multiple court orders in their efforts to propagate Daleiden's anti-abortion message.

In late May, Ferreira and Cooley released a batch of alarming footage Daleiden surreptitiously recorded at the National Abortion Federation's annual meetings in 2014 and 2015. In 17 videos and a short montage, attendees appeared to chat blithely about errant eyeballs and bone fragments "falling onto their laps" in the middle of abortion procedures, according to BuzzFeed.

The videos have since been taken down, but featured providers reportedly also spoke about fudging their numbers for financial gain. That claim echoes one Daleiden made in the 2015 videos he and his partner, Sandra Merritt, recorded while going (illegally) undercover at Planned Parenthood. Daleiden's aim was to prove that the health care organization was selling fetal tissue for profit.

A long string of state and congressional investigations cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing. Indeed, Daleiden and Merritt have instead been hit with multiple lawsuits: In March, the California attorney general charged the pair with 15 felonies.

Sandra Merritt, who helped David Daleiden make the Planned Parenthood sting videos, enters a Texas courthouse in 2016.
Source: Eric Kayne/Getty Images

In July 2015, the NAF filed a civil suit against the amateur filmmaker for invasion of privacy and breach of confidentiality at its meetings; in February 2016, U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued an injunction in that case, barring Daleiden, his lawyers and anyone else involved in the making of Daleiden's movies, from publicizing the names of the people he filmed. The suit also blocks his camp from distributing any more footage (although some of it mysteriously surfaced on conservative news sites in October 2015).

It is extra bold, then, that Ferreira and Cooley included the names of 14 participants in California's criminal case when they posted their latest round of videos.

The state's attorney general and the NAF are both requesting that Orrick hold Daleiden and company in contempt of court. In addition to the payment of a hefty fine, the NAF is also asking for Ferreira and Cooley's disbarment. The lawyers have now lawyered up, but they seem to stand by their actions.

"We had a good reason for releasing the footage," Ferreira told BuzzFeed. That reason, he explained, is finding patients who "were injured in the modified procedures used by Planned Parenthood doctors to extract fetuses for sale," which is to say, people who can testify to having undergone some of the grisly procedures described and depicted in Daleiden's felonious videos. So far, his attorneys have been unsuccessful — not because the footage was doctored and those women don't actually exist, Farreira told BuzzFeed, but "because people keep slamming [the videos] down!"

David Daleiden speaks outside a Houston courthouse in 2016.
Source: Bob Levey/AP

Although Daleiden's work has been roundly debunked, he has accrued an active and devoted following that firmly believes he is telling the truth about abortion. For that reason, his continued propagation of mistruths presents real danger: Reports of violence against providers almost doubled after the Planned Parenthood sting videos' release. The NAF alleged "death threats and severe harassment" have plagued the people targeted in the films.

When BuzzFeed asked Ferreira whether or not he was concerned about doctors' and clinics' safety, he shrugged off the question.

"Of course people are receiving threats, but so is David,” Ferreira said. "There is no more fraught issue in America than abortion, but the fact that people are receiving threats doesn’t mean anyone will get hurt."

If the past is any indicator, though, that's not necessarily true: When Robert Dear opened fire in a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in late 2015, killing three people and wounding nine more, he did so because of the allegations Daleiden and Merritt made with their videos. "No more baby parts," he reportedly told authorities.

A hearing to determine whether or not Daleiden will be held in contempt of court is slated for Wednesday. According to BuzzFeed, he could earn up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.


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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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