One of the two undercover investigators who exposed Planned Parenthood’s massive and profitable baby-body-parts trade in 2015 is challenging a California judge’s refusal to dismiss felony charges against her, arguing the state’s attorney general failed to meet the legal deadline for filing an amended complaint.
Sandra Merritt, represented by Liberty Counsel, filed a petition Monday in the state’s Superior Court in San Francisco contending the court violated state law when it allowed pro-abortion California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to refile his complaint nearly two months after the 10-day deadline had passed.
Becerra originally charged Merritt and David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress with 14 counts of surreptitiously recording people without permission, one count for each person videoed. A 15th charge was for “criminal conspiracy” to invade “privacy.” Merritt’s lawyers argue the videos exposed potentially illegal conduct by Planned Parenthood, and Planned Parenthood itself has admitted under oath that the recorded conversations took place in “non-confidential” and public venues.
The San Francisco Superior Court threw out 14 of the original counts as legally defective, and the state was given 10 days to refile the complaint.
When Becerra failed to meet the deadline for refiling, the 14 counts should have been dismissed, Liberty Counsel argues.
However, Judge Christopher Hite has refused to dismiss the counts, concluding the attorney general “intended” to refile. The judge gave Becerra and extension to correct what the attorney general claimed was a “clerical error.”
Liberty Counsel points out the law clearly states that a dismissed charge must be refiled within 10 days of the dismissal or be permanently barred.
The charges against Merritt and Daleiden were for their undercover work to expose “Planned Parenthood’s unethical and potentially illegal profiteering from the sale of aborted baby body parts,” Liberty Counsel has said.
Merritt could face up to 11 years in prison if convicted on all of the counts. Daleiden, whose case is being argued separately, could face a similar penalty.
Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, said the court must obey the law.
“It is irresponsible practice when the law says one thing and courts do another,” he said. “Judge Hite must take the correct legal action and dismiss the 14 criminal charges against Sandra Merritt.”
Merritt’s petition names the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Francisco as the opposing party.
The petition states that the court, in its refusal to dismiss the first 14 counts entirely, “failed to carry out its duty under California Penal Code Section 1008, which, by its explicit terms, mandates dismissal under the precise circumstances as occurred in petitioner’s case.”
“Section 1008 imposes jurisdictional constraints on criminal courts. Therefore, for failing to carry out the statutorily imposed duty to dismiss the aforementioned counts, respondent both exceeded its fundamental jurisdiction and abused its discretion where it had only one choice – to dismiss counts one through fourteen of the criminal complaint.”
The petition contends the attorney general, who had receive thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood, simply failed to follow the rules.
After his complaints against Merritt and Daleiden were dismissed, Becerra refiled the case using only Daleiden’s case number.
At a July hearing, Merritt’s lawyers asked about the failure to file an amended complaint within the time limit prescribed by state law, and “the attorney general had no explanation.”
The filing points out that Merritt’s lawyers even had asked the state about the failure to file, and “the attorney general’s office ignored petitioner’s inquiry.”
“In the instant case, respondent exceeded its jurisdiction and abused its discretion when it refused to dismiss counts one through fourteen of the criminal complaint against petitioner after the attorney general failed to file an amended complaint in petitioner’s case within ten days of respondent’s June 21, 2017 order. This is a blatant violation of Section 1008. The attorney general’s office filed its amendment complaint in petitioner’s case fifty-two (52) days late.”
A similar scenario developed in a case against Merritt and Daleiden in Texas, where a Houston grand jury issued indictments that later were thrown out. The district attorney in the case was removed from office, and an assistant was fired.
The National Abortion Federation is pursuing a separate action regarding undercover videos CMP took at an NAF convention where Planned Parenthood executives were discussing the baby body-parts trade.
The video investigation has led to efforts in Congress to stop the $500 million Planned Parenthood annually receives from taxpayers. President Trump and some Republicans lawmakers have said the money would be better spent on community health centers that provide a full range of health services. A House panel, headed by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., issued a report on CMP’s investigation. Along with a Senate panel, it recommends prosecutors investigate Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the trade of fetal parts.
Merritt’s lawyers contend Becerra is “in the back pocket of Planned Parenthood” and is going after the investigators for political reasons.
Staver noted that when pro-abortion California Gov. Jerry Brown named Becerra as attorney general, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards praised the appointment.
“Rep. Becerra is a long-time champion for women’s reproductive rights and health,” she said then. “As a former California deputy attorney general, he understands the importance of a woman’s right to access the full range of health care, including safe, legal abortion. At a time when reproductive health is gravely under attack in states across the country, we need leaders like Rep. Becerra to be responsible stewards of the law and protect the rights of millions of Americans, including the 850,000 California women, men and families that Planned Parenthood serves every year.”
Liberty Counsel said the Center for Responsive Politics shows Becerra received $1,000 in 2014, $2,000 in 2012, $500 in 2004, $1,000 in 2002 and $1,035 in 1998 in congressional campaign contributions from Planned Parenthood.
One of the CMP videos showed an official admitting Planned Parenthood sells fully intact aborted babies.
Another captures Deborah Nucatola of Planned Parenthood commenting on crushing babies.
“We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m gonna basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”
In another video, Planned Parenthood’s Mary Gatter discussed how her compensation for organs could rise, saying, “I want a Lamborghini.”
The fifth video released shows Melissa Farrell of Planned Parenthood’s Houston clinic discussing “intact fetal cadavers.”
The seventh video has the testimony of a Planned Parenthood worker who tapped an aborted infant’s heart and saw it start beating.