In a decision that showed the influence of the abortion industry, a Federal Court in California found David Daleiden guilty and awarded Planned Parenthood approximately $2.2 million for Daleiden’s work exposing the abortion industry, including the potentially illegal sale of aborted baby parts.
Planned Parenthood did not contest the accuracy of Daleiden’s undercover video reports. They sued him for trespass and other alleged illegal methods he and his colleagues used to conduct the investigation.
Prior to the jury deciding the case, the judge ordered the jury to include in its verdict that Daleiden had, in fact, trespassed. This, coupled with some evidentiary rulings that went against Daleiden, left him in a precarious situation with respect to what the jury could rely on to decide his fate.
Some journalists and supporters of Project Veritas have described this verdict as a blow to undercover journalism. That’s an opportunistic, and wrong, conclusion. This civil lawsuit was never about undercover journalism. The jury verdict represents a simple affirmation of basic law: when you sign a document agreeing that you will or won’t do something, you are bound by it. The allegations against Daleiden and his associates include that they signed some event applications and Non-Disclosure Agreements which allegedly prevented Daleiden from conducting his undercover investigation. The jury found that Daleiden had made agreements in those applications and NDAs that he violated.
Project Veritas undercover journalists will continue their intrepid pursuit of the truth unencumbered by this decision. Project Veritas journalists do not sign binding documents that purport to prohibit them from accomplishing their goal. Courts and juries will have a difficult time looking past a written agreement to keep things secret, regardless of the subject matter exposed by the undercover journalist. People who want to keep things secret have third parties sign written agreements to keep things secret.
Various states threatened and squeezed the Daleiden defendants with criminal prosecution. The result of these prosecutorial threats was that the defendants had to assert their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when questioned in civil depositions. The result was that, in the civil case, the jury was allowed to draw an adverse inference that the defendants did something wrong and this clearly negatively impacted the defense and influenced the jury and the verdict.
Project Veritas has never asserted the Fifth Amendment in response to any questions posed by those who have sued us. Project Veritas runs from nothing, stands by its reporting, and abides by the law. We have been sued eight times and have not lost a single case. Victory has come through an extremely rare Directed Verdict, through Summary Judgement, through a Motion to Dismiss and through two Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (“Anti-SLAPP”) Motions.
Nevertheless, we recognize the real injustice here is the unequal application of the law. This case is, undoubtedly, ideologically motivated. David Daleiden would be a national hero if he had done the same thing to an organization supporting animal cruelty, and California prosecutors would have exercised discretion, favoring the public’s right to know the facts he brought to light. Imagine if he exposed puppies being aborted and their body parts sold illegally. The verdict against Daleiden for investigating the abortion of human babies and the sale of baby parts clearly demonstrates the power of the abortion industry. This case was never about the legality or importance of undercover journalism.
Peter Breen, Counsel for David Daleiden, said he didn’t do this, “for profit or for personal gain. He did it for the paramount public purpose of letting Americans know” what was going on. “The Planned Parenthood lawyers? They stated that the case is about ‘protecting the brand.’ But what is it that hurt the brand? The very words spoken by Planned Parenthood personnel on those videos is what hurt the brand.”
We must never forget that, in a democratic republic, the right to know information is of paramount importance. Justice is supposed to be blind, but we sadly we live in a country where, increasingly, there is lack of equal justice under the law as it pertains to the FirstAmendment. This is particularly so in California where these types of investigations are needed more than ever.
This verdict will, undoubtedly, be appealed on many different grounds, so this case is far from over.