Undercover journalist David Daleiden is suing Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., alleging that as her state's attorney general, she conspired to violate his civil rights through a purportedly bogus prosecution.
Daleiden, an anti-abortion activist, famously released undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials engaging in highly controversial discussions about fetal tissue procurement. In response, California sued him through an unprecedented application of the state's eavesdropping law -- a move that Daleiden alleges was intended to suppress journalism.
“This complaint seeks justice for a brazen, unprecedented, and ongoing conspiracy to selectively use California’s video recording laws as a political weapon to silence disfavored speech," reads Wednesday's lawsuit, brought by both Daleiden and his Center for Medical Progress. The suit also names Xavier Becerra, the state's current attorney general, in addition to Harris.
"David Daleiden became the first journalist ever to be criminally prosecuted under California’s recording law, not because of the method of video recording he utilized in his investigation—which is common in investigative journalism in this state—but because his investigation revealed and he published 'shock[ing]' content that California’s Attorney General and the private party co-conspirators wanted to cover up,” it says.
Daleiden and his organization claim that Harris initiated the prosecution because it was politically advantageous for her.
"While running for U.S. Senate, Harris had a secret in-person meeting with Planned Parenthood executives in Los Angeles, including witnesses in her investigation, to discuss issues in the investigation as part of Planned Parenthood’s political agenda in California. Two weeks later, Daleiden’s home was raided by the California Department of Justice," a press release reads, "a CMP press release read.
A judge awarded Planned Parenthood $2 million in November as part of a separate, civil lawsuit with Daleiden. A judge paired down the eavesdropping case, which carries criminal charges, specifically lopping off five charges it said lacked "probable cause to establish" that some of the recorded conversations were "confidential communications" under law.
Becerra's and Harris' offices did not immediately respond to Fox News' requests for comment. When Becerra filed criminal charges against Daleiden in 2017, he indicated that Daleiden violated Planned Parenthood's privacy.
“The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society,” Becerra said in a press release. “We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.”
Planned Parenthood has described Daleiden's group as a "discredited." "David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress intentionally waged a multi-year illegal effort to manufacture a malicious campaign against Planned Parenthood," Acting CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said in November.
For Daleiden and others, the core of the ongoing saga is whether Planned Parenthood violated federal law by selling fetal tissue. Recently unsealed documents revealed Planned Parenthood charged a biospecimen company nearly $25,000 for fetal tissue and maternal blood samples in 2012.
According to the invoices, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte charged StemExpress $55 per "POC," or products of conception -- another term for fetal remains -- and $10 per sample of blood. Three invoices -- dated Aug. 2, Sept. 5, and Sept. 28 -- show the abortion provider charging $5,860, $11,365, and $7,715. That totals $24,940 for more than 200 POCs.
Planned Parenthood has defended itself by claiming that its charges related to transportation and time spent by staff. The invoices don't mention either of those, however, nor do they contain the word "reimbursement." Instead, they assign a fee per body part. Specifically, the previously released contract between those organizations showed that the exchanges were based on "POC determined in the clinic to be usable."
The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the organization, although it's unclear how it's proceeded since 2017 when it first made headlines.