A Houston-area prosecutor on Tuesday dropped all charges against a pair of anti-abortion activists indicted for using illegal government identifications to aid in the secret filming of a Texas Planned Parenthood facility, a newspaper reported.
The Houston Chronicle said the Harris County District Attorney dropped charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for tampering with a governmental record. The crime can bring a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.
Daleiden said in a statement the decision “is a resounding vindication of the First Amendment rights of all citizen journalists, and also a clear warning to any of Planned Parenthood’s political cronies who would attack whistleblowers to protect Planned Parenthood from scrutiny.”
The Republican leaders of Texas launched a probe of Planned Parenthood as a result of the video and have not found any wrongdoing by the reproductive rights group.
In a twist, the Texas investigation based on the allegations from Daleiden’s group, a grand jury in January cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing and indicted video makers Daleiden and Merritt.
In June, a Texas judge dropped a misdemeanor charge for the pair regarding the purchase of human tissue. The charge for trying to procure fetal tissue carries a punishment of up to one year in jail.[VnL1N1961JX]
Daleiden leads the California-based Center for Medical Progress, which released secretly filmed videos from a Houston-area Planned Parenthood office to accuse the women’s health group of trading in aborted fetal tissue.
Planned Parenthood has denied Daleiden’s allegations and sued in federal court, arguing that the people who recorded the videos acted illegally.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Alan Crosby)