A California judge ruled Dec. 6 to let a criminal trial proceed against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt on nine counts of violating California's anti-eavesdropping law.
The charges stem from undercover investigative videos filmed in 2015 by Daleiden and Merritt, who are with the Center for Medical Progress, which showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing fees related to selling fetal tissue. The two posed as representatives of a mythical fetal tissue procurement firm.
Judge Christopher C. Hite of San Francisco County Superior Court dropped five counts against Daleiden and Merritt, but in his order he said there was sufficient evidence to support the nine counts.
The defendants must appear in court for arraignment Jan. 30. Hite's ruling follows a preliminary hearing held in September. The case is California v. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt.
"The remaining charges under the California video recording law -- the first and only time it has ever been used against undercover news gatherers -- will fall for the same reasons that five charges were dismissed today: These were public conversations easily overheard by third parties," the Center for Medical Progress said in a statement.
"The real criminals are the Planned Parenthood leadership who sold fetal body parts from late-term abortions and weaponized the justice system to try to cover it up," it added.
Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, said he was pleased the five felony counts were thrown out -- a sixth one was thrown out earlier -- but he said the Chicago-based firm will continue to mount a vigorous defense "until every last one of these specious felony charges are thrown out of court."
Breen, who is leading the firm's defense of Daleiden, said the Center for Medical Progress "followed the same commonly accepted practices, including videotaping in public places, of other undercover journalists."
"David Daleiden is being charged as a criminal for openly delivering information that the public has a right to know, information that the abortion lobby and its financially supported elected officials would rather keep hidden," said Breen. "This prosecution by the state of California is an abuse of the justice system, and we are confident we will totally vindicate David in the end."
LifeNews.com reported that Daleiden and Merritt believe their prosecution is "politically motivated" by former California Attorney General Kamala Harris and her successor, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, because they receive political donations from Planned Parenthood.
Live Action's Lila Rose, who has done her own undercover investigations of the abortion industry, said in a Dec. 6 statement that the charges against Daleiden and Merritt are "unfounded and outrageous."
"Not only is it a violation of their First Amendment rights and a gross abuse of power, it demonstrates the politically motivated double standard that exists for journalists in California seeking the truth," she said.
Rose said the same year Daleiden and Merritt released their undercover recordings on "Planned Parenthood employees haggling over the price of aborted baby body parts, videos taken by undercover animal rights activists were praised and led to investigations of abuse in the poultry industry" by Harris as attorney general.