Makers of the controversial video made to shame Planned Parenthood by pretending to be researchers trying to purchase fetal tissue from the organization, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt (working under the aegis of the “Center for Medical Progress”), were indicted today in Harris County, Texas, by a grand jury on felony charges of “tampering with a governmental record.”
The grand jury was ironically convened to investigate whether the videos reveals that Planned Parenthood had broken any laws.
Since the story broke this afternoon I saw coverage cheering the indictment largely because they were sympathetic to Planned Parenthood and thought the video makers had done a bad thing, or booing it because they were unsympathetic to Planned Parenthood and thought the video makers had done a good thing.
But for hours no explanation of what specific act they had actually committed qualified under the quoted indictment language of “tampering with a governmental record” seemed forthcoming, or at least none that I had seen.
Now The New York Times has updated with a possible explanation:
In making the videos, Mr. Daleiden and others have been accused of setting up a fake company called Biomax Procurement Services, creating fake identities and claiming to be part of a legitimate provider of fetal tissue to researchers.
“We know that they used fake IDs that had their real photographs but fake names and fake addresses purported to be issued by the State of California,” said Josh Schaffer, a Houston lawyer who represents Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in the Harris County criminal investigation. Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt presented those IDs to security at the Planned Planned office to gain entry to the building. “They never denied that they presented a fake ID,” Mr. Schaffer said…..
“It does not surprise me that a grand jury that chose to correctly apply the law to the evidence that was presented would return this result,” he said. “The written charges have not been released publicly yet, so at this point I am working on my knowledge of the investigation.”
What seems to be the relevant Texas criminal code, only one I found with that language:
Sec. 37.10. TAMPERING WITH GOVERNMENTAL RECORD. (a) A person commits an offense if he:
(1) knowingly makes a false entry in, or false alteration of, a governmental record;
(2) makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with
intent that it be taken as a genuine governmental record;
(3) intentionally destroys, conceals, removes, or otherwise impairs the verity, legibility, or availability
of a governmental record;
(4) possesses, sells, or offers to sell a governmental record or a blank governmental record form
with intent that it be used unlawfully;
(5) makes, presents, or uses a governmental record with knowledge of its falsity; or
(6) possesses, sells, or offers to sell a governmental record or a blank governmental record form with
knowledge that it was obtained unlawfully…..
(c)(1) Except as provided by Subdivisions (2), (3), and (4) and by Subsection (d), an offense under
this section is a Class A misdemeanor unless the actor’s intent is to defraud or harm another, in
which event the offense is a state jail felony.
The reporting all states that their charge is a felony one. According to this site, a “state jail felony” is:
punishable by 180 days to two years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Daleiden also was hit with a misdemeanor charge related to attempting to buy human tissue.
It’s possible people might rise above their culture-war sympathies about this and wonder whether having and using a fake I.D. in and of itself should be punished as a felony. Or, maybe not and those who want to see those guys punished will grab whatever stick they can toward that goal. (Or maybe people genuinely believe the making of a fake I.D. deserves six months to 2 years locked in a cage.)