STEVEN ERTELT JAN 26, 2016 WASHINGTON, DC
As LifeNews reported Monday, a Texas grand jury has ignored the videos exposing a Houston-based Planned Parenthood abortion clinic caught selling aborted baby body partsand has instead indicted the man behind producing the expose’ videos.
The Texas grand jury indicted David Daleiden and another pro-life activist, Sandra Merritt, behind the videos. Instead of prosecuting Planned Parenthood for selling aborted baby parts, Daleiden was indicted for buying them.
Daleiden and Merritt were charged with one felony related to tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to buying human tissue. The felony charge was in reference to the use of a fake ID. If convicted, Daleiden faces 20 years in prison while Planned Parenthood officials face no legal consequences for their actions.
At the same time, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson (pictured) announced that Harris County’s investigation into the criminal conduct at Houston’s Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast has ended. Anderson said that the case is closed and that she has no further recourse.
The announcement of the closure of the Planned Parenthood investigation and indictment of Daldiden is very concerning for pro-life advocates — in part because a Planned Parenthood board member works as a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office.
The pro-life group Operation Rescue informed LifeNews.com that a prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s office serves on the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood.
Lauren Reeder is a prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s criminal family law division. Reeder is listed as a non-compensated “Director” on the 990 Tax Form for 2014filed by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
Anderson told the Houston Chronicle that Reeder “will not be involved in any manner in this investigation. If at any time in the future, reliable and credible information is brought to my attention that would question our ability to continue to perform a fair, thorough and independent investigation of this matter due to her board membership, I will revisit the issue of seeking the appointment of an independent prosecutor and act accordingly.”
Before yesterday’s announcement of the indictment, Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, who also serves on the Board of the Center for Medical Progress, which released videotaped evidence against Planned Parenthood, told LifeNews.com a special prosecutor is needed because of the clear conflict of interest at the D.A.’s office.
“Today, we renew our call to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and District Attorney Devon Anderson to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate Planned Parenthood,” Newman told LifeNews. “There are too many questions about the independence of the Harris County District Attorney’s office with a Planned Parenthood board member on hand and given the failure of a previous grand jury under Anderson to indict a Houston abortion provider despite ample photographic evidence and eye-witness testimony of late-term babies being born alive and intentionally killed. The public needs to be assured that an impartial investigation will be conducted on the facts and not on a personal political agenda.”
Today, Cheryl Sullenger, Senior Vice President of Operation Rescue is incensed that Daleiden was charged and that the grand jury’s work was politically motivated. Here is her statement to LifeNews:
We were disappointed, to say the least, by the news that a grand jury chose to indict the investigative journalists who were trying to expose and report crimes in Houston, Texas. This has the effect of chilling the First Amendment freedom of the press and could scare crime witnesses away from coming forward for fear that they might suffer similar retaliatory prosecution.
Because of the secrecy surrounding the grand jury process, it is susceptible to manipulation by a prosecutor with a personal or political agenda. In Kansas, abortion-related grand juries were so influenced by unscrupulous prosecutors who sought to cover up abortion crimes that the State Legislature is now attempting to change the laws to make the process more transparent and accountable to the people.
In Daleiden’s case, once the facts are allowed to come out, which Planned Parenthood and the NAF have worked night and day to conceal or misrepresent, we have every confidence that Daleiden and Merritt will be completely exonerated. In the meantime, Planned Parenthood remains under investigation by other state agencies in Texas, which we believe will reach different conclusions than that of the Anderson-influenced grand jury in Houston.
Meanwhile, a top pro-life attorney finds the conflict of interest very concerning.
“What happened in Texas is very troubling,” said Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, which is involved in defending human life. “By giving Planned Parenthood a pass and indicting two pro-life journalists who merely revealed this horrific practice through their undercover work, the action of this local grand jury raises serious questions about the appropriate use of our legal system.”
Sekulow added: “When you consider the fact that one of the prosecutors in the Harris County district attorney’s office is deeply involved with Planned Parenthood – serving as a board member for the local Planned Parenthood affiliate in Texas where the undercover investigation took place – along with the fact that she has served as an active fundraiser for Planned Parenthood for years – you have to ask the question – was this probe tainted? Was there a conflict of interest that produced a biased result?”
Other investigations into Planned Parenthood’s actions are still underway and officials in Texas say the grand jury action will have no bearing on their probe as it continues to move forward.
“The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.