The jury rendered a verdict today (Nov. 15) in Planned Parenthood v. Center for Medical Progress, awarding plaintiffs Planned Parenthood Federation of America and numerous affiliates $2.2 million in actual and punitive damages.
The jury even found the defendants liable for Planned Parenthood’s racketeering (RICO) claims. The federal RICO statute was enacted to eradicate organized crime and requires a pattern of certain types of criminal acts. The Gambino and Lucchese crime families were prosecuted under RICO, as was Michael Milken who was convicted of securities fraud. In this case, Planned Parenthood attorneys allege that David Daleiden, Susan Merritt, Albin Rhomberg, Troy Newman, and the other pro-life defendants should be held liable under RICO for making two obviously fake IDs on a home printer over six years ago. Rhomberg and Newman had no knowledge of the IDs, yet the jury found them liable as co-conspirators. The RICO law allows plaintiffs to recover exorbitant treble damages (triple the claimed damages) and attorney fees.
The jury also found that the defendants violated federal recording laws. But, as Life Legal’s Katie Short pointed out in her closing argument, in order for the defendants to be liable for creating and publishing the videos under federal law, Planned Parenthood would have to produce evidence “that the recording was done for the purpose of committing a criminal act in the future….[that] everything done for the whole journalism project, including publishing the video, was somehow criminal, a crime.”
In this case, it’s exactly the opposite: the recordings were made for the purpose of exposing crimes.
To hold people liable for undercover investigative journalism that exposes criminal and unethical behavior is an offense to our constitutional rights and liberties, attorneys for the defendants argued.
Because the judge would not allow the First Amendment as a defense to Planned Parenthood’s claims, the jury held that the defendants were liable for recording or conspiring to record all of the video footage obtained by the Center for Medical Progress.
“We are appalled by today’s verdict,” said Life Legal executive director Alexandra Snyder. “It is as though the jury completely disregarded every piece of evidence we produced. Not only does Planned Parenthood engage in illegal and morally repugnant practices, but its agents never bothered to tell the defendants that the conversations about things like ‘crushing above and crushing below’ to get more desirable and salable body parts were confidential.”
“We will appeal this unjust result and fight to protect the First Amendment rights of investigative journalists to show us what happens behind the veil of powerful corporations like Planned Parenthood, who has relied on a shroud of secrecy to build its multi-billion dollar abortion empire.”
Watch live statement from defense attorney Katie Short here.
The above comes from a Nov. 15 story from Life Legal Defense Foundation.