- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2017

A federal judge in San Francisco held pro-life activist David Daleiden and his attorneys in contempt of court Monday for posting online undercover videos in violation of a court order.

U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick also ordered Mr. Daleiden, who heads the Center for Medical Progress, to turn over video footage and other materials related to his 2016 preliminary injunction, according to the National Abortion Federation.

In late May, the center posted a video using footage recorded at the federation’s closed-door meetings in 2014 and 2015, part of an investigation into whether abortion clinics were selling aborted fetal body parts for profit.

The judge quickly ordered the videos taken down and scheduled a contempt hearing.

“Daleiden used his criminal attorneys to circumvent our court order,” said Vicki Saporta, NAF president and CEO, in a statement. “This egregious and disturbing violation of our preliminary injunction cannot stand, and we are pleased that Daleiden and his co-conspirators will be held accountable for their actions.”

Included in the contempt citation were attorneys Steve Cooley, former Los Angeles County district attorney, and Brentford J. Ferreira, who told The Associated Press they plan to appeal.

A former deputy district attorney, Mr. Ferreira called the contempt order “an unprecedented infringement on a state criminal case,” the Center for Medical Progress said on Facebook.

Mr. Daleiden’s attorneys have argued that the gag order is unconstitutional, and that releasing the videos became permissible after multiple criminal charges were filed against him and Sandra Merritt in March by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

“These videos are now unquestionably information the public is entitled to, and they are key evidence in the charges and defense of David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, but the gag order even prevents their release to law enforcement,” said the center in a March 29 statement.

Mr. Becerra filed 15 charges against the two pro-life activists of unlawfully recording 14 people without their permission as well as a count of conspiracy, all of which the center has slammed as “bogus.”

The NAF sued Mr. Daleiden and the center two years ago to stop the release of videos secretly taped at the federation’s closed-door meetings in San Francisco in 2014 and Baltimore in 2015.

The video released in May showed NAF members joking about the difficulties of performing abortions, referring to “heads that get stuck” and having to “pull off a leg or two.”

Mr. Daleiden has argued that the gag order violates First Amendment bans on prior restraint, while Judge Orrick said in his February 2016 order that the injunction was necessary to protect the privacy of those recorded.

“It should be said that the majority of the recordings lack much public interest, and despite the misleading contentions of defendants, there is little that is new in the remainder of the recordings,” said the judge in his ruling. “Weighed against that public interest are NAF’s and its members’ legitimate interests in their rights to privacy, security, and association by maintaining the confidentiality of their presentations and conversations at NAF Annual Meetings.”

The center filed last month a motion to remove Judge Orrick from the case based on his previous role on the board of the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center in San Francisco, which has a Planned Parenthood facility on the premises.

U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in San Francisco ruled against the center’s motion in a June 26 decision.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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