Author Topic: Grand jury returns criminal indictments in Planned Parenthood investigation  (Read 52058 times)


Wayward Son

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Considering the evidence, it's a wonder it took so long. :)

Pete at Home

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What's the charge?

D.W.

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I think it was faking an ID of some sort.
It sounded like kinda a not too terribly serious charge.  I expect the "undercover journalists do this too!" argument may get them out of some of this.

It sounded very much like a, "don't waste our F'ing time with this" decision to me.

Fenring

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From what I read the charge is illegal procurement of human organs. Normally you're only allowed to acquire these for research purposes, but allegedly the people who made the video had to acquire them in order to make the video; they didn't chance on some clinic that had them, they apparently staged it using organs they had acquired. Since they were not using them for research, but were instead using them for the one thing expressly forbidden - making profit - they are being criminally charged for this, which I believe is a misdemeanor.

D.W.

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Eww... I thought that part of the charges (was half awake alarm clock radio when I heard it) was "attempted" procurement. 

Fenring

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Eww... I thought that part of the charges (was half awake alarm clock radio when I heard it) was "attempted" procurement.

Here's an excerpt from an article:

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The Harris County grand jury indicted David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, both of California, on charges of tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony with a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison. It also charged Daleiden, the leader of the videographers, with the same misdemeanor he had alleged – the purchase or sale of human organs, presumably because he had offered to buy in an attempt to provoke Planned Parenthood employees into saying they would sell.

So I guess you were right, DW.

D.W.

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That seems like another charge that I don't see sticking.  This would be as if someone tried to purchase drugs in order to preform a citizen's arrest.  The cops (if they believed you) would be very cross, but I don't know as if they would follow through on the charges.  They may proceed with it a bit to scare you off from doing something so bone headed again... but that's probably it.

In case this comes across as a defense of these idiots, I like the way this was handled.  :P

DJQuag

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What I don't understand is where the charge of tampering with a government record came from. These two are a couple of douchebags, but I don't think they deserve 20 years in the can.

DJQuag

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If you had yourself on tape buying illegal drugs, then you really have broken the law, and the only thing that would save you would be cops who refused to press charges or a sympathetic jury. This being Texas, there'll probably be  juror or two who would have excused them for blowing the clinic up, so I doubt there is a conviction.

D.W.

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It's not like they are ever going to face 20 years for this.  I'd kinda be shocked if they spent any time in the can.  It's either just to send a message to others and the charges will be dropped, or they are trying to get them to plea guilty and just hit them with a fine / community service of some sort.

The desire to "teach them a lesson" is a bit dangerous as the journalism shield they tried to hide behind, really could be damaged by going too hard on them.  At least from this lay person's perspective.

Fenring

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What I don't understand is where the charge of tampering with a government record came from. These two are a couple of douchebags, but I don't think they deserve 20 years in the can.

I think this might refer to the fake medical ID's they were wearing when posing as medical workers. Those might be government issue, in which case faking one would be tampering with a government document/record (are those the same thing?). It seems pretty sketchy to me for someone to pose as a doctor for any reason at all; that's pretty bad and deserves some time, but maybe not 20 years, no.

Pete at Home

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It seems pretty sketchy to me for someone to pose as a doctor for any reason at all; that's pretty bad and deserves some time

Seems like a bullcrap justification to me, to apply such a law "for any reason at all."


If someone impersonated a cop at a party to get other cops to brag about planting evidence, would you hold them to felony impersonation of a police officer?

Doubtless that's what sociopathic DA's would charge because they want the endorsement of the policeman's union.  But it's an abuse of the law for political purposes.

Wayward Son

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Ah, but which is worse, Pete.  The abuse of law for political purposes, or the breaking of laws for political purposes?  ;)

Fenring

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On the face of it, legal jargon aside, it seems really messed up to me for people to impersonate doctors. Just on an everyday "I'm a person in society" kind of way I find the idea of impersonating a doctor troubling and wouldn't like to see people thinking they can just do that in order to trick people. It's not like they faked being surgeons or something and tried to operate, but still doctors are one of the most trusted professions. They're not merely experts but also commonly seen as being 'safe people' in some sense. I would have compared this to a police officer in the past, except that right now I don't think people feel too safe around police officers. Based on that comparison I'd suggest that this is worse than impersonating a police officer. And lest your comparison come to rest too easily, you were comparing this case to someone impersonating an officer in order to expose a crime (planting evidence), whereas in the real case they were impersonating doctors to plant evidence themselves. So yeah, I think that should be treated as the crime it is.

Pete at Home

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That response was shallow and misses the ethical issue in the post you responded to.

Impersonating a police officer in order to falsely exercise color of law, is the reason the law exists.  The law exists to prevent things like kidnappers donning police uniform.

Impersonating a physician in order to assume that authority, to treat someone without a license or to obtain restricted substances without a license, is the purpose for that law. 

Using such laws to protect cops or doctors from having their own abuses of authority investigated, is a whorish and totalitarian application of the law.  It's turning the purpose of the law on it's head.  And it sets a very scary precedent.

If these guys schemed to deceive the public then prosecute them for fraud.  But then be

.

Fenring

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Impersonating a physician [...] to obtain restricted substances without a license

Uh, Pete, did you miss the part where this is exactly what they tried to do?

DJQuag

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Huh.  I'll admit that it hadn't really clicked for me that this is like if they pretended to be medical professionals in order to score opiates.

Yeah. I see the seriousness of it now.

Pete at Home

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Huh.  I'll admit that it hadn't really clicked for me that this is like if they pretended to be medical professionals in order to score opiates.

Yeah. I see the seriousness of it now.

But it's exactly NOT that. They weren't trying to score fetus parts. They were looking to expose such traffic. 

The wrong here wasn't the intent to expose said traffic; it was the deceit about their findings.

Imagine that these were investigative journalists trying to expose organ traffic out of a private prison.  This abhorrent legal interpretation would apply there too.

scifibum

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I don't think investigative journalists are allowed to break the law, generally speaking.  Whistleblower laws don't apply to people who try to incite a crime to then blow a whistle about it, as far as I know.

Fenring

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But it's exactly NOT that. They weren't trying to score fetus parts.

Yes they were. Whether in their minds they actually wanted to obtain fetal parts is irrelevant. They attempted to procure them. Their end goal is unrelated to the method they used to achieve it.

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The wrong here wasn't the intent to expose said traffic; it was the deceit about their findings.

If you want to look at this morally, the attempt to deceive was the bad thing. But since it's not illegal to make a video that's deceptive they can't actually be held to that. If, however, they used illegal methods to make the video then while going after them for those methods is somewhat tangential to why people are upset with them that doesn't mean there's no grounds to indict. You can call it a technicality if you want to, and you'd probably even be right to suggest that the motive to indict might be punitive, but that doesn't alter whether or not they impersonated doctors to do something they shouldn't have. The fact that their motive was fraudulent adds color to the case but isn't the main issue any more.

Seriati

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Don't think they are being charged with impersonating doctors, honestly doubt they could unless they attempt or actually provide medical services.  They seem to be charged with creating fake drivers licenses, presumably to establish fake credentials to go undercover.   One of the most interesting questions I saw, was whether this charge means that the Harris county prosecutor will also charge illegal aliens will falsifying official records on a go forward basis, or if this is just one more item where it only gets prosecuted in you're of the wrong political views.

The charge on attempting to purchase fetal tissues, is completely bogus, there's certainly no ability to show intent.

The most interesting thing to me is the broader implications this has for any kind of undercover journalism.  Maybe its a simple lesson, don't use fake idea, maybe its a more dangerous lesson, impersonation for news purposes is now high risk.

AI Wessex

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Maybe its a simple lesson, don't use fake idea,
I reckon it's as difficult to tell a fake idea from a real one as a fake Christian from a real one, as they sound very alike.

Seriati

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I really need to proof more closely before posting.  Time expired on fixing that gem.

Wayward Son

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Here's an article that briefly describes the charges.

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Charge: Tampering with a governmental record

Daleiden has admitted to putting together a fake company he dubbed Biomax Procurement Services. His group assumed aliases and claimed to provide fetal tissue to researchers.

The fake IDs used by Daleiden and Merritt, which look like California driver’s licenses, triggered the felony charge, Schaffer said...

"They presented those to security at the Planned Parenthood office to gain access to the facility for the meeting they’d scheduled with the intent to defraud or harm Planned Parenthood,” he said. “They secretly videotaped meetings and edited the tapes to be taken out of context.”

Intent to cause harm is what elevated the possession of fake IDs to a more serious felony charge than, say, a 16-year-old trying to buy a six-pack would receive, Schaffer said. Under Texas law, the charge carries a penalty of two to 20 years in prison.

Charge: Attempting to buy human tissue

Using his false identity, Daleiden emailed Planned Parenthood in June, asking to buy fetal tissue for $1,600, Schaffer said...

Authorities don’t need to see evidence of a deal or interest from another party to pursue the charge. Planned Parenthood, Schaffer said, never responded to Daleiden’s email.

“He probably didn’t know he was breaking the law,” Schaffer added.

The charge is a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in county jail.


NobleHunter

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I hope that a key element of the charges is something like a lack of journalistic intent. That they used faked ids and "attempted" to procure fetal tissue not to expose crimes but to create the appearance of them. The way they manipulated and manufactured evidence certainly seems like evidence of non-journalistic intent.

Whistleblower laws have stipulations for the public good, don't they?

Seriati

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Thanks for citing that Wayward, based on that write up, I'll change my previous summary to say both charges are completely bogus.  If the fake id charge was based on some kind of official use (like using them to register the company) then it would be a real fraud charge, but basing it on presenting them at the PP offices to gain entry is a direct assault on any kind of undercover journalism.  Honestly, does that mean when asked a reporter will now have to present their actual drivers license in an undercover investigation or face 2-20 years in prison?

The charge on attempting to purchase is still bogus where there is no intent to actually purchase. 

The idea that this is all "wrong" because they intended bad things is so subjective as to be a real danger to anyone trying to expose wrong doing. 

Seriati

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I mean really, Planned Parenthood's remedy should be a suit for defamation if they believe they were lied about, this set of criminal charges appears to be a complete farce.

scifibum

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Honestly, does that mean when asked a reporter will now have to present their actual drivers license in an undercover investigation or face 2-20 years in prison?

It's news to me that forging official documents is OK for investigative journalists.  Is this established law, or just your POV?

Wayward Son

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I mean really, Planned Parenthood's remedy should be a suit for defamation if they believe they were lied about, this set of criminal charges appears to be a complete farce.

Which is Planned Parenthood's plan.  This is the State of Texas who is doing this, based on a Grand Jury investigation to find out if Planned Parenthood had broken the law.

Oh, the irony... :D

Seriati

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It's news to me that forging official documents is OK for investigative journalists.  Is this established law, or just your POV?
Do you also think actors should be arrested for the fake passports and licenses that show up in films? 

Not saying it's okay, just saying that filing charges based on this usage seems bogus.  The harmed party here isn't the government, there was no improper use to violate another law (like using it to violate age restrictions on liquor sales), there was no improper benefit.

NobleHunter

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It undermines the utility of legally issued ID as a means for verifying identity.

scifibum

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"Do you also think actors should be arrested for the fake passports and licenses that show up in films?  "

You know, prop  makers have been charged with counterfeiting currency, and they also have to be careful about police badges.

"The harmed party here isn't the government"...

That's a pretty weird angle, I have to say.  Again, I'm wondering if you're trying to represent some actual legal standard or just rationalizing something in order to disagree with smug liberals.

Seriati

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Not trying to represent the legal standard, haven't looked it, but I suspect that they can sustain the charges on these facts or they wouldn't have filed.  What I am talking about it is the decision to file on a technical violation where the reasons for the rule aren't implicated.  Rules against fake id's are there for a reason, and it's generally not to interfere with investigative journalism.  The rule on the purchase, could be a strict liability violation if that's how the law is written, but again no reasonable person would think these activists are trying to buy baby parts other than to expose illegal activity.  In effect, they were attempting to help enforce the existing law, be very odd to prosecute them (though we do prosecute vigilante's its usually for assault or other excesses).

Fenring

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In effect, they were attempting to help enforce the existing law, be very odd to prosecute them (though we do prosecute vigilante's its usually for assault or other excesses).

This would be a reasonable argument if you thought the creators of the video were intending in honorable fashion to portray the facts of PP accurately and were trying to do due diligence in bringing facts to light. Is this actually what you think happened? I'm not asking whether PP is perfect, by the way, but only whether the video was made with intention towards promoting the truth. It would be very odd indeed for you to qualify an attempt to fabricate facts in a frame-job to get an organization in trouble with the law as attempting to help enforce the existing law. If I made up a video with fabricated evidence tying someone to a murder they didn't commit, am I helping to enforce the law, or helping to undermine it?

Seriati

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You know Fenring we went over these issues in some detail in the prior thread.  I have no doubt that the video makers are activists who'd love nothing better than to shut down Planned Parenthood, even on a technicality.  That said, the majority of the damage that Planned Parent took in connection with these videos was from the words that came out of their own staff's mouth, not from deceptive editing.  There's a callousness there that comes from being intimately involved in the process that is not shared by the majority of the people in the country (including those who are pro choice but see the decision to abort as difficult or involving conflicting rights). 

In short, I don't think these activists motives were any more or less "honorable" than an investigative journalist's or undercover police officer's, they are all serving what they believe are higher callings, and engaging in deceptive actions to do so.  There's definitely less agreement that these guys' calling actually is honorable, which causes people to treat them more harshly and give them less of a benefit of the doubt, but that's a matter of opinion more than any kind of objective test of honor. 

As to the most important question, were these videos made to promote the truth?  I'm not entirely sure.  As we went through this in some detail in the prior thread, I think taking any compensation (as PP did) puts the issue of whether they are profiting on the table.  Is it untrue to expose that practice if its happening?  It's pretty clear from the reaction that an awful lot of people weren't even aware they were donating the parts to science, let alone that they were receiving expense reimbursements (or possibly profiting).  What exactly is not legitimate about exposing that practice to the citizens who are providing a very substantial amount of funding to the organization?  Weren't you arguing for an audit of the Fed, why is this different?  Sure it could have been done neutrally or as a PP puff piece, but honestly, why should PP be protected from exposure by those who think its mission is evil?

What specific facts were fabricated in your view?  I don't recall seeing any, or are you referring to the implications and conclusions that were drawn from the hidden videos, the opinions and allegations?

AI Wessex

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That said, the majority of the damage that Planned Parent took in connection with these videos was from the words that came out of their own staff's mouth, not from deceptive editing.
Well, the Grand Jury begs to differ.  They didn't rule on the veracity of the videos (civil suits have been filed to address that), but the mendacious and deliberate baiting of the PP staff is what the they found egregious.  They were right in that determination.  You don't enhance your own integrity by insisting they stood for something worthy.  They were scum with a hugely biased agenda and have no interest in the truth.  May they rot on an Oregon wildlife sanctuary for all I care.
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In short, I don't think these activists motives were any more or less "honorable" than an investigative journalist's or undercover police officer's, they are all serving what they believe are higher callings, and engaging in deceptive actions to do so.
I feel completely confident that you would feel differently if it were a "liberal" leaning group seeking to catch a GOP'er in lies.  That wouldn't be that hard to do, actually.

D.W.

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I wouldn't dismiss the possibility they were "sure" of PP's guilt and we're willing to fabricate any "proof" required to convince others. 

*I* think their motivations were dishonorable, but they likely would lose no sleep doing whatever it takes to stop PP.  People constantly do despicable things in the name of honor.

Pete at Home

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"Well, the Grand Jury begs to differ.  "

Statistically authority-worshipping bull crap.  Ever heard of the phrase "a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich"?

I agree with DW that these guys probably had dishonorable motives (like Saccha Baron Cohen has, when he committed fraud to tell a misleading story of the people he filmed under false pretenses.). That does not justify blatant abuse of power or malicious prosecution of obviously inapplicable charges.

No surprise this prosecution occurred in Texas. The stAte that enacts laws expanding the definition of "Terrorism" to include folks that enter meat industry land under false pretenses in order to film instances of animal cruelty.

If you support this prosecution, that is the moral company you keep.


Pete at Home

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I mean really, Planned Parenthood's remedy should be a suit for defamation if they believe they were lied about, this set of criminal charges appears to be a complete farce.

Which is Planned Parenthood's plan.  This is the State of Texas who is doing this, based on a Grand Jury investigation to find out if Planned Parenthood had broken the law.

Oh, the irony... :D

On the right, we have twits who blame planned parenthood. On the left, we have twits who cite Texas grand juries as some sort of moral authority.  No one grasps that the issue here isn't abortion but Texas' longstanding campaign against freedom of the press, and overcoming the prisons with nonviolent offenses.

The ID issue should be a misdemeanor.  The principal harm here is fraud and defamation.   Dragging one's politics into the criminal prosecution aspect of this story is pure whoring.

Wayward Son

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Ever heard of the phrase "a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich"?

But somehow, when the prosecutors were tasked with indicting Planned Parenthood based on the videos, they ending up indicting the people who made the videos.  Does this mean that the citizens of Houston dislike bologna more than ham? ;)

I mean really, Planned Parenthood's remedy should be a suit for defamation if they believe they were lied about, this set of criminal charges appears to be a complete farce.

Which is Planned Parenthood's plan.  This is the State of Texas who is doing this, based on a Grand Jury investigation to find out if Planned Parenthood had broken the law.

Oh, the irony... :D

On the right, we have twits who blame planned parenthood. On the left, we have twits who cite Texas grand juries as some sort of moral authority.  No one grasps that the issue here isn't abortion but Texas' longstanding campaign against freedom of the press, and overcoming the prisons with nonviolent offenses.

The ID issue should be a misdemeanor.  The principal harm here is fraud and defamation.   Dragging one's politics into the criminal prosecution aspect of this story is pure whoring.


Are you calling Seriati a twit?  Because I was pointing out to him that it wasn't Planned Parenthood that was charging them criminally, but the State of Texas via the Grand Jury.  It's like blaming the guy who gets hit by a car for the driver being charged with reckless driving. :)

All-in-all, I agree that the charges are probably too severe for the crime.  Although there is evidence that the video's producers had it out for Planned Parenthood from the get-go, I'm not sure that constitutes intent of doing harm.  I'd have to see what criteria is used to determine such intent.  With what I know now, I'd probably let them off with a misdemeanor, too, if that.

But the lovely irony of it all is that, after several Grand Juries investigating these videos in several states, the only indictments that have resulted are against those who made the videos!  ;D  I mean, how much proof does anyone need before they admit that maybe, just maybe, the edited videos aren't accurate, and the members of Planned Parenthood just may not have done anything criminal?

Apparently much more for twits like Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina.

Ultimately, I would like to see something done to discourage lying jerks like the video producers from slandering people and organizations just because they don't like what they do.  But civil suits should take care of that, eventually.  But for now, let's just sit back and enjoy the irony of people who try to entrap their enemies ending up entrapping themselves. :D

scifibum

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That said, the majority of the damage that Planned Parent took in connection with these videos was from the words that came out of their own staff's mouth, not from deceptive editing.

False.  The damage they took is in the consequences from the distortions, exaggerations, and outright lies that many on the right continue to promulgate based on deceptive editing and wishful interpretation of the evidence.  Many are still outraged that charges against PP haven't been filed, despite the fact that multiple investigations have found no illegal activity by PP.  The deceptive editing is the pretext that demagogues are using to justify their misrepresentation of what happened and what should happen (legally speaking).  And this has led to efforts to de-fund and a whole lot of bother for the organization. 

Pete at Home

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Ever heard of the phrase "a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich"?

But somehow, when the prosecutors were tasked with indicting Planned Parenthood based on the videos, they ending up indicting the people who made the videos.  Does this mean that the citizens of Houston dislike bologna more than ham? ;)

I mean really, Planned Parenthood's remedy should be a suit for defamation if they believe they were lied about, this set of criminal charges appears to be a complete farce.

Which is Planned Parenthood's plan.  This is the State of Texas who is doing this, based on a Grand Jury investigation to find out if Planned Parenthood had broken the law.

Oh, the irony... :D

On the right, we have twits who blame planned parenthood. On the left, we have twits who cite Texas grand juries as some sort of moral authority.  No one grasps that the issue here isn't abortion but Texas' longstanding campaign against freedom of the press, and overcoming the prisons with nonviolent offenses.

The ID issue should be a misdemeanor.  The principal harm here is fraud and defamation.   Dragging one's politics into the criminal prosecution aspect of this story is pure whoring.


Are you calling Seriati a twit?  Because I was pointing out to him that it wasn't Planned Parenthood that was charging them criminally, but the State of Texas via the Grand Jury.  It's like blaming the guy who gets hit by a car for the driver being charged with reckless driving. :)

All-in-all, I agree that the charges are probably too severe for the crime.  Although there is evidence that the video's producers had it out for Planned Parenthood from the get-go, I'm not sure that constitutes intent of doing harm.  I'd have to see what criteria is used to determine such intent.  With what I know now, I'd probably let them off with a misdemeanor, too, if that.

But the lovely irony of it all is that, after several Grand Juries investigating these videos in several states, the only indictments that have resulted are against those who made the videos!  ;D  I mean, how much proof does anyone need before they admit that maybe, just maybe, the edited videos aren't accurate, and the members of Planned Parenthood just may not have done anything criminal?

Apparently much more for twits like Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina.

Ultimately, I would like to see something done to discourage lying jerks like the video producers from slandering people and organizations just because they don't like what they do.  But civil suits should take care of that, eventually.  But for now, let's just sit back and enjoy the irony of people who try to entrap their enemies ending up entrapping themselves. :D

I am less concerned with the charges being "too severe" than being the wrong charges whose misapplication would endanger honest sting operations.

It's like arbitrarily charging an arsonist with rape instead of Arson. Wrong bloody charge.  And you don't want to see big felony crimes redefined with that sort of plasticity. It's a prosecutor's wet dream
Ideally there should be some criminal libel charge that incorporates an effective solicitation to do harm.  Hold these guys accountable cod attacks on PP. Bout be aware the law.may be used on liars you sympathy,e with.

Wayward Son

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Another reason the fake ID charge is a felony.  Because it is.

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Anderson dispels some of the misconceptions that have sprung up about her office's decision. For example, defense attorneys have argued that charging both Daleiden and Merritt with a felony for using fake driver's licenses is too extreme because young people caught with fake IDs often receive a misdemeanor charge. But Anderson explains that in Texas, using a fake ID from another state is a felony. "That's the law," she says.

As noted in a previous link, the fake ID they used looked like California drivers licenses.

Pete at Home

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Fake state ID is a potential felony (a wobbler in Nevada between felony and gross misdemeanor) , but not a 20 year thing.

It's one of those crime inflation things.  Felonies used to be reserved for serious crimes.

D.W.

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Out of curiosity, have they suggested they are pushing for the maximum sentence?  Was this just a case of, "This is serious and could be sentenced with up to 20 years."  Did TV give me (another) skewed concept of law enforcement when it suggests that you frequently threaten a maximum sentence of a higher charge as part of a process to get them to plea guilty to a lesser charge or lesser sentence?

Greg Davidson

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How would we feel about activist film-makers who fabricate IRS documentation in order to go into a company, record depositions from multiple people, then selectively edit the worst ones to demean the company?

Seriati

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Another reason the fake ID charge is a felony.  Because it is.
So I took a look at the Texas penal code because of this statement.  First, let me say I have no idea if there are provisions that provide special protections to journalists, but even just looking at the code section these charges look like a stretch and particularly the bump up to a felony charge seems unwarranted.   Straight reading of a statute is not the best way to figure this out, because you need to get a sense of how they've been interpreted and enforced to know what they mean, but it's not clear that the "intent to harm" standard has been met (good chance that's been interpreted to mean financial harm, theft or some other violation of law given what this statute is typically used to cover, none of which are present here), which is the only thing justifying the bump up.  Even the basic statute has a defense included for some of its provisions (not clear if its one these guys were charged under) for falsifications that don't impact the government's purposes with respect to a record, which given the complete lack of use of the licenses with any government official or any request for the record by the government, would seem to be a problem for the charge, but again its a matter of how its been interpreted.

Seriati

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How would we feel about activist film-makers who fabricate IRS documentation in order to go into a company, record depositions from multiple people, then selectively edit the worst ones to demean the company?
Impersonating a federal officer (ie an IRS agent) is a different crime entirely.  It puts your actions in the light of compelling the other person to answer. 

All journalists already edit records selectively to present the worst (or sometimes best) story.

D.W.

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How is it different?  Wasn't the intent of the fake ID's to make them more likely to speak candidly?  You know, reveal their OBVIOUSLY nefarious plans and activities to someone "in on it" rather than the general public they laugh at behind closed doors?  :)