February 3, 2016 / 6:25 PM / 2 years ago

Anti-abortion activists in covert videos head to Texas court

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - One of two anti-abortion activists indicted for using a fake government ID to aid secret filming inside Planned Parenthood facilities appeared at a Texas court on Wednesday while the other will do so a day later, legal officials said.

David Daleiden, indicted in January by a Houston-area grand jury, will appear at Harris County District Court in Houston on Thursday and then go through booking, lawyer Jared Woodfill said. Daleiden will likely seek to have charges against him thrown out, he added.

Daleiden is leader of the California-based Center for Medical Progress that released the secretly filmed videos used to accuse Planned Parenthood of trading in aborted fetal tissue. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on charges of tampering with a governmental record, in this case a California driver’s license.

“We are likely to present a motion to quash the indictment,” Woodfill said. At a news conference last week, Woodfill said there was a runaway grand jury in Harris County that went after whistle blowers instead of wrong doers.

In a twist for the Texas Republican leaders who ordered an investigation and accused the women’s health group of illegally trading in aborted fetal tissue, the grand jury in January cleared Planned Parenthood and indicted video makers Daleiden and Sandra Merritt.

Merritt, a lesser figure in the filming, appeared at a Houston court in Houston on Wednesday. She was offered a type of a probation deal where, if she keeps a clean record for a certain period, the charge of tampering with a government record would be dropped, prosecutors said.

The videos released last summer purported to show Planned Parenthood officials trying to negotiate prices for fetal tissue. Under federal law, donated human fetal tissue may be used for research, but profiting from its sale is prohibited.

In response to the videos, Texas and other Republican-controlled states tried to halt funding for Planned Parenthood. U.S. congressional Republicans pushed for a funding cut.

Planned Parenthood denied the allegation and sued in federal court, arguing those who recorded the videos acted illegally.

Planned Parenthood has said Daleiden and Merritt presented fake IDs in April 2015 and posed as research executives from a fictitious company to secretly film conversations at a health and administrative center in Houston.

On Tuesday, the Center for Medical Progress released a new video accusing Planned Parenthood of “accounting gimmicks” to hide fetal tissue sales.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by David Gregorio and Meredith Mazzilli

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