An investigation into Planned Parenthood took a bizarre twist on Monday after a grand jury brought charges against the pair of individuals claiming to expose the group instead.
A grand jury in Houston, Texas announced criminal charges against a pair of anti-abortion activists, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, for their roles in creating now-viral videos attacking Planned Parenthood, according to multiple local reports.
The jurors had spent two months reviewing undercover footage produced by Daleiden’s group, the Center for Medical Progress, at the request of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R).
Daleiden claimed that his footage showed Planned Parenthood officials haggling over the price of aborted fetal organs as part of the organization's fetal tissue donation program in some states.
As Patrick announced the criminal probe last August, he was deeply critical of Planned Parenthood, suggesting that the group was “dismembering aborted babies” and “selling babies fully intact.”
“The people of America and the people of Texas will not accept this callous attitude toward human life, and I will not accept it,” Patrick said during a press conference at the State Capitol in August, according to local news station KXAN.
But jurors said Monday they did not find evidence of illegal activity by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.
Instead, Daleiden was indicted for “prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs.” He and Merritt were both indicted for “tampering with a governmental record.”
"It is an affirming day for Planned Parenthood," Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "We feel vindicated."
Planned Parenthood has repeatedly accused Daleiden of breaking the law to create his videos, including falsifying government IDs to enter restricted areas like conferences for abortion providers.
The Center for Medical Progress issued a statrement Monday night:
The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws. We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.
Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood went on the offensive against Daleiden by filing a lawsuit in federal court accusing the Center for Medical Progress of unlawful behavior ranging from secret taping to trespassing.
A Republican-led committee in Congress charged with investigating Planned Parenthood has said it will not back down even as other states have cleared the group of wrongdoing. The leader of that panel, Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSenator asks Facebook's Zuckerberg to testify at hearing on kids' safety TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat executives to testify at Senate hearing on kids' safety Buttigieg hits back after parental leave criticism: 'Really strange' MORE (R-Tenn.), did not immediately respond to the grand jury decision on Monday.
A national spokesman for Planned Parenthood, Eric Ferrero, wrote in a statement that Daleiden and Merritt “broke the law to spread malicious lies” about the group in their effort to make abortion illegal.
“We're glad they're being held accountable," he said.
This story was updated at 6:00 p.m. and 8:08 p.m.