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A federal jury in San Francisco found that the Center for Medical Progress (an anti-abortion group) and its president, David Daleiden, broke multiple federal laws when they secretly recorded and released (highly edited and altered) videos of Planned Parenthood employees.

Here are the facts about this lawsuit:

NBC Bay Area reported (before the outcome of the case was determined) that Planned Parenthood asked the jury to award $630,000 for increased security costs plus an additional punitive damages award in an amount to be determined by the jury. U.S. District Judge William Orrick ruled that individuals and their organization (Center for Medical Progress) cannot be held liable for threats and violence made by third parties, but only for costs to Planned Parenthood that it directly caused.

My understanding of this direction from the judge is that he wanted the jurors to consider the altered videos, and consider whether or not those publicly released videos caused Planned Parenthood to need to spend money on additional security at their health care centers. It seems to me that the judge did not want the jury to consider the threats and violence caused by a man who killed three people, and injured nine people, at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs in 2015.

The Hill reported that the jury awarded Planned Parenthood $2 million in damages, finding that David Daleiden and his organization, the Center for Medical Progress engaged in fraud, trespassing, and illegal secret recording.

Orlando Sentinel reported that the jury ordered Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress to pay nearly $2.3 million in damages. It also reported: “The jury awarded $1 million in damages, but offenses under the federal Racketeer and Corrupt Organizations Act are considered acts of organized crime and penalties awarded for them are automatically tripled.”

San Francisco Chronicle reported: “U.S. District Judge William Orrick III told the opposing parties and the jury that the trial was not about abortion, or any of Planned Parenthood’s alleged practices, but only about the defendants’ conduct. Jurors found that dozens of conversations were illegally recorded and that the defendants had violated the laws of California and Maryland as well as federal laws.” San Francisco Chronicle also reported that the jurors assessed damages against Albin Rhomberg and Troy Newman, who are board members of the Center for Medical Progress.

Newsweek (via MSN) reported that the videos were recorded by David Daledien and Sandra Merritt between 2013 and 2015. They pretended to be representatives of a fake company called BioMax. Planned Parenthood alleged (and, it appears that the jury concluded) that Daleiden and Merritt used fake names “Robert Sarkis” and “Susan Tannenbaum”. They secretly recorded video at clinics and industry conferences, asking Planned Parenthood workers for tissue from abortions for “medical research.”

Here are some facts about the laws related to this lawsuit:

Stimmel Law posted information about California’s law prohibiting secret recording of conversations. I was not able to determine when it was posted. It includes a good description of California Law Penal Code § 632, which is part of the California Invasion of Privacy Act. Stimmel Law stated that it:

…makes it illegal for an individual to monitor or record a “confidential communication” whether the communication is carried on among the parties in the presence of one another or by means of a telegraph, telephone, or other device. California is known as a “two-party” state, which means that recordings are not allowed unless all parties to the conversation consent to the recording.”

Prudential Associates posted information about Maryland’s law prohibiting the secret recording of conversations. I was unable to determine when this information was posted. Prudential Associates stated: “In Maryland, the law specifically states that either party, or every party on the line, must be notified that the phone conversation is being recorded. This ensures that no one is left believing that their conversation was private, when actually it was not. In addition, the law typically extends having a conversation while recording it with another individual. When taping a conversation in person, every individual participating in the conversation needs to be aware that it is being recorded.”

RICO is the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, this federal statute was enacted in 1970, and is part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. It covers a wide variety of crimes committed by “enterprises”, which is defined as: “any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity.”

RICO is often used in cases involving organized crime. In 1985, the Supreme Court concluded that RICO is not limited to organized crime, but may be applied to legitimate commercial-enterprise businesses. RICO can also be used on individuals.

Encyclopedia Britannica explains: In order for an individual or organization to be convicted of racketeering under RICO, there must be proof of a “pattern” of illegal offenses, which RICO defines as the commission of at least two identified criminal offenses within a 10-year period.

I am not a lawyer. To me, it appears that the jury concluded that David Daledien and/or the Center for Medical Progress illegally recorded “dozens of conversations” in violation of California and Maryland laws.

Here are facts that led up to this lawsuit:

In 2015, Politico reported that the research firm Fusion GPS, which does forensic video analysis, determined that the videos created by Daledien and the Center for Medical Progress “contain intentionally deceptive edits and inaccurately transcribed conversations and are missing footage”.

The article from Politico includes a link to the report by Fusion GPS. In their Executive Summary, Fusion GPS stated: “A thorough review of these videos, in consultation with qualified experts, found that they do not present a complete or accurate record of the events they purport to depict.” Fusion GPS continued:

Each release by CMP contained a short edited video, between eight and fifteen minutes in length, that intercuts clips from the undercover recordings with other content and a “full footage” video that claims to provide the raw, unedited footage of each interview. A video forensics expert, a television producer, an independent transcription agency, and Fusion GPS staff reviewed this material. While these analysts found no evidence that CMP inserted dialogue not spoken by Planned Parenthood staff, their review concluded that CMP edited content out of the alleged “full footage” videos, and heavily edited the short videos so as to misrepresent statements made by Planned Parenthood representatives. In addition, the CMP transcript for the “full footage” video shot at Planned Parenthood’s Gulf Coast facility in Texas differs substantially from the content of the tape.

Fusion GPS also noted that “…the manipulation of these videos does mean they have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquires unless supplemented by CMP’s original legal material and forensic authentication that this material is supplied in unaltered form. The videos also lack credibility as journalistic products.”

In conclusion:

The main thing to realize about the outcome of this case is that it is NOT about abortion. The judge made that clear when he instructed the jury (as reported by San Francisco Chronicle) the trial was not about abortion, or any of Planned Parenthood’s alleged practices, but only about the defendants’ conduct.

This blog was originally posted on November 16, 2019 on Medium.

Planned Parenthood Awarded $2 Million in Damages Over Secretly Recorded Videos is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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