Texas judge drops misdemeanor charge against anti-abortion activist
By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A Texas judge on Tuesday dropped a misdemeanor charge regarding the purchase of human tissue against an anti-abortion activist indicted for using a fake driver’s license ID to aid secret filming inside a Planned Parenthood facility, prosecutors said.
David Daleiden, indicted in January by a Houston-area grand jury, is still facing a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record, which can bring up to 20 years in prison.
“We do not intend to appeal the judge’s decision. Our office remains focused on the felony charge,” Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement.
The misdemeanor charge for trying to procure fetal tissue carries a punishment of up to one year in jail.
“This is a huge win for the pro-life movement,” said Jared Woodfill, an attorney for Daleiden. “The court recognized that the charges brought by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office were flawed from their inception.”
Daleiden has been offered a probation deal in which, if he keeps a clean record for a certain period of time, charges would be dropped, prosecutors said in February.
Daleiden’s lawyers said at the time he planned to reject the deal and was seeking an apology from prosecutors.
Daleiden leads the California-based Center for Medical Progress, which released secretly filmed videos from a Houston-area Planned Parenthood office to accuse the women’s health group of trading in aborted fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has denied Daleiden’s allegations and sued in federal court, arguing that the people who recorded the videos acted illegally.
In a twist for the Texas Republican leaders who had ordered an investigation based on the allegations from Daleiden’s group, the grand jury in January cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and indicted video makers Daleiden and Sandra Merritt.
Lawyers for the anti-abortion activists have not disputed that the pair used false IDs but said they did so for investigative journalism.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)