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California court dismisses most of the charges against Planned Parenthood filmmakers — for now

Pro-life activists take part in a protest Jan. 21 outside of a Planned Parenthood center construction site in Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, a California court dismissed 14 of 15 charges against the filmmakers with the Center for Medical Progress. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

A California court dismissed 14 of 15 charges against the filmmakers with the Center for Medical Progress on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the pro-life group told TheBlaze. But the state was granted the opportunity to amend and re-file the charges.

Earlier this year, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed 15 felony charges against David Daleiden, the founder of the Center for Medical Progress, and his associate, Sandra “Susan” Merritt, for their roles in the release of undercover videos that showed Planned Parenthood employees appearing to negotiate the price of aborted fetal body parts. Prosecutors said the pair filmed 14 people without permission. They added a 15th charge for “criminal conspiracy to invade privacy.”

On Wednesday, the San Francisco Superior Court dismissed 14 of the charges against each filmmaker. The court called the charges legally insufficient, although it gave the state the opportunity to amend the charges. According to Reuters, the state has until July 17 to file a revised complaint that details the allegations more specifically.

“This is a huge victory to have 14 criminal counts dismissed,” Mat Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, an organization representing Merritt, said in a statement. “We will now turn our attention to dismissing the final count. Sandra Merritt did nothing wrong. The complaint by the California attorney general is unprecedented and frankly will threaten every journalist who provides valuable information to the public. This final count will also fall.”

In a news release, a spokesperson for the Liberty Counsel noted that Becerra, a former Democratic member of Congress, has accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood. They also argued that the conversations the Center for Medical Progress recorded took place in public areas such as restaurants.

In a statement provided to TheBlaze, a spokesperson for the California Department of Justice said:

Following the defense’s complaint that there are too many surreptitious recordings to know which ones the California Department of Justice is relying on, the Judge requested more specificity in the charging document, specifically to identify the videos that are the basis of the charges. The California Department of Justice has ten days to amend the complaint and will be making the requested changes.

In a statement posted on Facebook Wednesday, the Center for Medical Progress said that its undercover videotaping “isn't any different from what local news does every day in California — but we exposed the state's sacred cows at Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation, so they have brought a bogus political prosecution against our investigators.”

“Planned Parenthood's attack on the First Amendment will fail, and this collusive discrimination against all pro-life Americans will not stand,” the statement said.

This story has been updated to include a statement from the California Department of Justice, who returned our request for comment after this story's publication.

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