A Houston prosecutor shared evidence with a Planned Parenthood attorney during a grand jury investigation that resulted in indictments of pro-life investigators, fueling allegations of prosecutorial abuse, according to a court document released Tuesday.
In a sworn statement, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast attorney Josh Schaffer said that Harris County Assistant District Attorney Sunni Mitchell figured out a way to bypass a state directive in order to deliver him raw video footage taken by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress.
The Harris County grand jury, which was charged with investigating allegations of fetal-tissue profiting against Planned Parenthood, instead handed down indictments in January against CMP investigators David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt.
“I was told that the Attorney General’s Office agreed to give it to the HCDAO [Harris County District Attorney’s Office] on the condition that the HCDAO not give it to PPGC,” says Mr. Schaffer in the May 17 affidavit. “Mitchell told me that she would try to obtain the footage by other means.”
He added, “I never asked how she planned to do that. I assumed she would ask Daleiden for it directly.”
Ultimately, Mr. Schaffer said he received the footage in December from Ms. Mitchell after she told him she obtained it from Daleiden attorney Murphy Klasing.
The Thomas More Society, a legal foundation involved in representing Mr. Daleiden, described the interaction as an “end-run around the Texas Attorney General’s directive.”
“The recent filings by the Harris County District Attorney confirm that the DA shared confidential documents and information with abortion provider Planned Parenthood, colluding with it in the prosecution of David Daleiden,” said Thomas More special counsel Peter Breen.
“These filings also include evidence that appears to show that the DA’s office worked with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast to undermine the Texas Attorney General’s independent investigation of that abortion provider,” Mr. Breen said. “The conduct of Harris County prosecutors in this case is outrageous and illegal. We look forward to pressing our motion to quash this indictment in court.”
Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt are fighting the indictments, which stem from the center’s undercover investigation into Planned Parenthood’s role in fetal-tissue procurement from abortions.
Grand jury proceedings are by law secret, and Mr. Schaffer insisted that “at no time during the course of the HCDAO investigation did I inquire about, nor did any HCDAO prosecutor reveal to me, any aspect of any grand jury activity.”
His statement was included in a brief filed May 19 by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in response to Mr. Daleiden’s effort to quash the grand jury indictment.
Attorneys for Mr. Daleiden, who earlier refused to accept a plea deal, have argued that prosecutors were politically motivated, citing Mr. Schaffer’s press conference following the grand jury’s Jan. 25 indictment.
At the invitation-only press conference, Mr. Schaffer said that he “explicitly pushed prosecutors” to charge the pro-life investigators instead of Planned Parenthood, and that he and the Harris County prosecutors maintained a “dialogue … about the details of the case,” according to Reuters.
Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt were indicted on felony counts related to the fake driver’s licenses they used during the investigation. Mr. Daleiden was also indicted on a misdemeanor count of attempting to procure human organs.