David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Susan Merritt, the activists behind undercover videos that targeted Planned Parenthood, had the tables turned on them as they were charged Tuesday with 15 felony counts of invasion of privacy, according to a criminal complaint filed in California.
The pair think of themselves as “citizen journalists” and investigators for the Center for Medical Progress, a nonprofit, anti-abortion group. In a statement Tuesday night, the center responded by promising to go on the offensive and release even more secret videos.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement that Daleiden and Merritt “used manufactured identities and a fictitious bioresearch company to meet women’s health care providers and covertly record the private discussions they initiated.”
The statement continued: “The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society. We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”
The Center for Medical Progress responded with a statement that used strong language to get its point across, saying it denounced Planned Parenthood’s charges. “We look forward to showing the entire world what is on our yet-unreleased video tapes of Planned Parenthood’s criminal baby body parts enterprise,” the statement read.
According to the complaint filed Tuesday in state Superior Court in San Francisco, Daleiden and Merritt posed as “Robert Sarkis” and “Susan Tennenbaum” of Biomax Procurement Services — a company they made up and registered with false documents, including fake driver’s licenses.
They first gained entry to a conference in 2014 of the National Abortion Federation in San Francisco, and managed to continue the ruse through September 2015. Once inside these events, they would secretly record speakers, vendors and attendees, according to the complaint.
The Center for Medical Progress website started posting heavily edited videos in July 2015, investigators said. Several people named and portrayed in the videos reported receiving death threats, according to the affidavit. Identities of the 14 targets of the videos are under seal.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America spokeswoman Mary Alice Carter on Tuesday said that the charges were “a clear message that you cannot target women and you cannot target health care providers without consequences.”
She continued: “Planned Parenthood has done nothing wrong, and the only people who broke the law are those behind the fraudulent tapes.”