A federal jury found that the Center for Medical Progress — an organization known for its release of undercover videos apparently capturing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue obtained through abortion procedures — caused substantial harm to Planned Parenthood and awarded the abortion group $870,000 in punitive damages plus hundreds of thousands more in compensatory damages.
LifeSite news reported that Planned Parenthood was seeking $630,000 in base damages and millions of dollars in punitive damages.
According to a news release from the Thomas More Society, which provided CMP's legal defense, the jury awarded Planned Parenthood a total of $2.2 million in damages. The Hill also reported that at least $2 million was awarded.
BREAKING: Jury awards Planned Parenthood $870K in punitive damages plus hundreds of thousands more in compensatory… https://t.co/mGskzfnZiy— CMP (@CMP) 1573851486.0
Here's the punitive damage payout breakdown from reporter Helen Christophi. The amounts are confirmed in the verdict form.
Punitive damages: Daleiden: $125K Merritt: $25K Biomax: $200K CMP: $400K Rhomberg: $70K Troy Newman $50K Lopez: $0… https://t.co/XQldiy0Jw7— Helen Christophi (@Helen Christophi) 1573849582.0
Pro-life activist David Daleiden, the founder of the organization, and his collaborator, Sandra Merritt, had posed as representatives of BioMax, a fake biomedical research company they started in order to communicate with Planned Parenthood officials.
The undercover videos show Daleiden and Merritt discussing the sale of aborted baby body parts with Planned Parenthood officials, allegedly exposing Planned Parenthood's commercial exploitation of aborted fetal tissue.
Details about the trial
The ruling Friday came as a part of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America v. Center for Medical Progress federal civil trial in San Francisco.
In the trial, Planned Parenthood and affiliates accused Daleiden and other Center for Medical Progress reporters and board members of illegal taping and racketeering, among other crimes, and sought damages and restitution of monies.
Planned Parenthood continued to deny the authenticity of the videos, maintaining that CMP doctored the videos to make Planned Parenthood look bad.
"The defendants' plan here was not to find crimes, and it was not about journalism. It was about using any means, including illegal means, to destroy Planned Parenthood," Planned Parenthood attorney Rhonda Trotter told the jury, according to Courthouse News.
Daleiden's attorneys argued that he and Merritt were investigating "violent felonies" based on a belief that Planned Parenthood was illegally profiting from the sale of fetal tissue for medical research.
The report also noted that U.S. District Judge William Orrick III ruled that the jury could only consider information Daleiden had prior to launching his video project in 2012, and not anything learned from the recordings.
The defense called the process 'unfair'
The lawyers for the CMP citizen journalists say they were hampered by Orrick ruling out a First Amendment defense and called the entire process "unfair."
"Unfortunately, we couldn't get Judge Orrick to back off from his insistence that the jury be instructed that the First Amendment … does not state any kind of defense to the charges in this case," Thomas Brejcha, founder of the Thomas More Society, said the week before the ruling, according to LifeSite News.
Daleiden blasted the ruling Friday, calling it "a dangerous precedent for citizen journalism and First Amendment civil rights." Lawyers for the CMP are already planning to appeal.
Read Daleiden's full statement, sent in an email news release Friday and obtained by TheBlaze:
"Justice was not done today in San Francisco. While top Planned Parenthood witnesses spent six weeks testifying under oath that the undercover videos are true and Planned Parenthood sold fetal organs on a quid pro quo basis, a biased judge with close Planned Parenthood ties spent six weeks trying to influence the jury with pre-determined rulings and suppressed the video evidence, all in order to rubber-stamp Planned Parenthood's lawsuit attack on the First Amendment. This is a dangerous precedent for citizen journalism and First Amendment civil rights across the country, sending a message that speaking truth and facts to criticize the powerful is no longer protected by our institutions."
See The Face Behind The Planned Parenthood Videos| "Dana" youtu.be