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Understanding the Criminal Charges in the Texas Planned Parenthood Case

Multiple states initiated investigations or moved to end funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. after a series of undercover videos were released allegedly showing employees of the nonprofit organization agreeing to sell the tissue and organs of aborted fetuses. Many critics and experts found claimed that the videos had been deceptively edited.

While many state investigations found that Planned Parenthood violated no laws in its handling of fetal tissue, a Harris County grand jury convened to investigate whether regional franchise Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast (PPGC) sold the organs of aborted fetuses did end up returning indictments—not against the clinic, but instead against the videographers who filmed the undercover meetings.

David Daleiden, the director of the Center for Medical Progress, and co-employee Sandra Merritt were both indicted on second-degree felony charges of tampering with a governmental record. If convicted, they could each be ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000 and/or sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

This criminal charge allegedly stems from Daleiden and Merritt misrepresented themselves by using fake California driver’s licenses. In most cases, the use of a fake ID is typically a Class A misdemeanor, but tampering with governmental record becomes a felony under Texas Penal Code § 37.10 when an alleged offender’s “intent in committing the offense was to defraud or harm another.”

Daleiden was also charged a Class A misdemeanor offense related to the prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs under Texas Penal Code § 48.02. Many people wondered why Daleiden alone was charged with this crime when Planned Parenthood allegedly discussing the possible sale of fetal tissue and organs was perceived to be the basis for the investigation.

An attorney for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast claims that Daleiden’s misdemeanor charge stems from a letter he sent to the clinic a few months after a meeting in the Houston office last April. Daleiden allegedly attached a proposed contract in which he offered to pay as much as $1,600 per fetal tissue specimen.

Even if Daleiden had no actual intention of actually purchasing the human organs, the Texas statute specifically states that it is a violation if an alleged offender “knowingly or intentionally offers to buy, offers to sell, acquires, receives, sells, or otherwise transfers any human organ for valuable consideration.” Planned Parenthood was not charged because there was no evidence that the clinic ever responded to Daleiden’s offer.

Do you believe that you have been wrongfully charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense in Texas? It is in your best interest to contact an experienced Austin criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so you can discuss the specifics of your case and get answers to your legal questions.

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