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Judge In Planned Parenthood Trial Orders Guilty Verdict Against Journalist
David Daleiden, a defendant in an indictment stemming from a Planned Parenthood video he helped produce, arrives for court at the Harris County Courthouse after surrendering to authorities on February 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.
Eric Kayne/Getty Images

The judge in the “Baby Body Parts” trial of activist and journalist David Daleiden has ordered the jury find him guilty of trespassing at Planned Parenthood conferences and clinics — before the jury retired to consider a verdict.

Planned Parenthood is suing Daleiden and his colleagues after they released secretly recorded videos of executives haggling over the sale and price of baby body parts from abortions in their facilities.

Daleiden is contesting all the charges. However, Judge William Orrick told the jury that he has decided to find Daleiden guilty of trespass during his undercover journalism. Daleiden previously lost an attempt to have Judge Orrick removed from the case, alleging he was biased against the defendants.

Thejudge stated that the jury must find that Daleiden and others “trespassed at the 2014 Forum in Miami, Florida; at the 2015 MeDC meeting in Orlando, Florida; and the 2015 National Conference in Washington, D.C.”

“I have already determined that these defendants trespassed at each of these locations. Because I determined that these defendants trespassed, the law assumes that Planned Parenthood has been harmed and is entitled to an award of nominal damages such as one dollar for each trespass,” he told the jury as the trial comes to a conclusion.

The judge said he had also determined that Daleiden and his colleagues trespassed at the Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountain Center in Colorado and a Planned Parenthood Center in Texas.

The judge said the jury must accept his rulings and only decide if Planned Parenthood suffered damage from the trespass and what damages they should be awarded.

Planned Parenthood originally sought $20 million in damages for trespassing, fraud, and RICO conspiracy against Daleiden and his colleagues. However, Judge Orrick reduced potential damages to $600,000.

Daleiden recorded Planned Parenthood executives stating they changed abortion techniques to ensure better and more profitable body parts were retrieved for sale. His attorneys argue that the recordings took place in public places, such as restaurants and hotels, where participants have no expectation of privacy.

Planned Parenthood is not suing Daleiden for defamation or slander and the organization’s lawyers did not state that the videos were inaccurate or exaggerated. They instead claimed they were filmed as a result of trespassing and other illegal methods. The organization is also claiming Daleiden and his colleagues are guilty of fraud for setting up a fake company and identifications to open business conversations with Planned Parenthood executives.

Addressing the jury at the close of the trial, Peter Breen, counsel for Daleiden and his colleagues, said the case is “about the steps it took for private citizen investigators to cut through a curtain of silence and concealment.”

“They didn’t do it for profit or for personal gain.  They did it for the paramount public purpose of letting Americans know and law enforcers investigate whether and to what extent our laws may have been violated. And they are not just any laws, but these are laws relating to homicide against born human beings, laws against the selling of body parts and organs of aborted human fetuses, and the laws against changing medical procedures without knowledge and consent to obtain more valuable fetal parts,” he told the jury.

He referred to Planned Parenthood lawyers stating that the case is about “protecting the brand.”

“But what is it, that hurt the brand? The very words spoken by Planned Parenthood personnel on those videos is what hurt the brand,” Breen contended.

Breen argued that at no point during the trial did Planned Parenthood dispute the accuracy of the secretly recorded videos.

“Now, Planned Parenthood could have tried to dispute this issue, but when push came to shove here at trial, a place where you need hard evidence to back up your claims, they had nothing. This is what so outraged the public. The true words of Planned Parenthood’s top abortion doctors and other personnel,” he told the jury.

He added that it was not a case of fraud or racketeering but rather one about the freedom of the press.

“This is a case of undercover journalism. And we, the people, need that information. You need that information. You may not like seeing that information. It may be difficult or whatever. But we don’t want to stop the flow of information.”

Also addressing the jury was Charles Limandri, another lawyer for Daleiden and his colleagues, who said the evidence they heard showed “people, obviously, making huge profits selling and buying fetal tissue, which is not legal.”

“Different people understanding they have different views about using undercover techniques where you have to misrepresent your identity and misrepresent why you’re there.  But if you’re doing it to save human lives and to stop the type of atrocities that we’re talking about here, it’s fully justifiable,” he added.

He said the charges were an attempt by Planned Parenthood to “conceal criminal activity.”

“And they even want you to use a threat of punitive damages to stop them — stop anybody from ever being able to show — do that again. And they want to destroy these defendants, financially.”

The jury has retired to consider its verdict.

Phelim McAleer is a journalist and filmmaker. He is the author of the New York Times best-selling book “Gosnell – The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer” and host of the Podcast The Ann and Phelim Scoop.

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