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Two Activists Who Secretly Recorded Planned Parenthood Face 15 Felony Charges (npr.org) 470

mi writes: California prosecutors on Tuesday charged two activists who made undercover videos of themselves interacting with officials of a taxpayer-supported organization with 15 felonies, saying they invaded privacy by filming without consent. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a longtime Congressional Democrat who took over the investigation in January, said in a statement that the state "will not tolerate the criminal recording of conversations." Didn't we just determine that filming officials is not merely a right, but a First Amendment right? The "taxpayer-supported organization" is Planned Parenthood, and the charges were pressed against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Daleiden has called the charges "bogus," claiming that Planned Parenthood "has violated the law by selling fetal tissue -- an allegation that has been investigated by more than a dozen states, none of which found evidence supporting Daleiden's claim," reports NPR. "Daleiden claimed the video showed evidence that Planned Parenthood was selling that tissue, which would be illegal. Planned Parenthood said the footage was misleadingly edited and that the organization donates tissue following legal guidelines and with permitted reimbursements for expenses, which investigations have corroborated."
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Two Activists Who Secretly Recorded Planned Parenthood Face 15 Felony Charges

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  • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @06:45PM (#54138713)

    I really don't understand how anyone can conflate someone who works at Planned Parenthood with a police officer. They are not employees of the Government or any form of government body.

    Just because they receive some government funding doesn't mean their status changes. They aren't acting on government orders and should the government withdraw their funding they would attempt to source it elsewhere.

    Anyone who is trying to argue that these people are government officials has an agenda they are pushing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      As much as I hope we can kill all government funding for planned parenthood, the right to not be subject to this kind of spying by activists is too important to give up. I see people on the right trying to support this activity but they should beware. When you take these protections away we all lose. Personally I think we've given up too much of our freedoms now. Let's not give any more away.

      • by Macdude ( 23507 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @12:18AM (#54140491)

        Personally I think we've given up too much of our freedoms now.

        What about my freedom to use the medical practitioner of my choice? What about my freedom to partake in the medical procedures of my (and my Doctor's) choice? Why do you get to decide what "freedoms" I get to exercise?

        Why is it that the people who most loudly shout about defending "freedom", are the ones that want to control who I marry, which bathroom I use, and which god I pray to?

    • I'm not sure the take-away from this incident should be whether or not the secretive recording of the Planned Parenthood imbroglio was lawful, so much as I question the implications of editing the recording. citation [rileywellslaw.com]
    • Because it serves their agenda. Duh.

  • So 60 Minutes... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tulsa_Time ( 2430696 )

    can no longer record undercover in CA ?

    • Re:So 60 Minutes... (Score:5, Informative)

      by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi AT evcircuits DOT com> on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @06:58PM (#54138785) Homepage

      CA is a two-party consent state so it has never been legal in CA to record surreptitiously where the other party expects the conversation to be private.

      The exceptions may be federal employees on duty at the time of recording under federal jurisdiction but this doesn't apply here, PP is a private organization and the employees are private entities.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @06:59PM (#54138791)
      Not if you're recording the government breaking the law. Only the government is allowed to get away with breaking the law.
      • by kqs ( 1038910 )

        You do realize that these folks recorded private citizens and employees of a non-profit, and not "the government", right? People seem really confused by this point, and I have no idea why.

  • Apples v. Oranges? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @06:48PM (#54138727)

    > Didn't we just determine that filming officials is not merely a right, but a First Amendment right?

    The two links in this question refer to filming police officers, who are employed by their jurisdiction to enforce laws. Planned Parenthood is a 501(c)(3), a nonprofit corporation, so aren't their officials by definition not public employees? What is similar in this case, other than the recording of others, that makes it comparable to filming of public employees performing public duties?

    • Planned Parenthood is a 501(c)(3), a nonprofit corporation, so aren't their officials by definition not public employees?

      Do you even know what a 501(c)(3) corporation is? As for being public employees, I'll give you a hint: it's related to the word "corporation".

      But let's look at another example. What about people who get jobs in abattoirs in order to record the genuine mistreatment of animals? Should they be prosecuted? How is this different?

      Hard cases make bad laws.

  • There is a distinction between your privacy rights in public and private. Just like secretly recording telephone conversations is prohibited. The first amendment does not give me the right to come into your home, invited, and start secretly filming. If these videos had been recorded in public settings, I doubt the legality would be in question.

    • In Liberal CA, even in public locations recording audio / video generally requires all parties know they are being recorded... I would imagine though, that where the recordings where made (public or not) would be a factor in the punishment phase of a criminal trial.
  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @07:03PM (#54138831)

    Daleiden has called the charges "bogus," claiming that Planned Parenthood "has violated the law by selling fetal tissue -- an allegation that has been investigated by more than a dozen states, none of which found evidence supporting Daleiden's claim," reports NPR.

    So, exactly who are they quoting here? Daleiden claiming there's no evidence to support his own claims? WTF. Can somebody find an editor who isn't BeauHD?

  • Double standard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @07:10PM (#54138871) Homepage

    Undercover videos are apparently fine when they record evidence of animal abuse.

    http://www.mercyforanimals.org/investigations [mercyforanimals.org]

    http://thefederalist.com/2017/03/29/california-is-fine-with-undercover-sting-videos-that-expose-animal-cruelty/ [thefederalist.com]

    But an undercover video related to abortion gets a different standard.

    I am foursquare opposed to double standards under the law. If Mercy for Animals isn't charged for surreptitious recording, then this verdict should be overturned.

    P.S. The NPR article makes the claim that the video was misleadingly edited. If so, then sue those guys for slander; lying by misleading editing is still lying. Don't selectively enforce a recording law because you are actually upset about something else.

    P.P.S. "...an allegation that has been investigated by more than a dozen states, none of which found evidence supporting Daleiden's claim." If we are going to hammer people with 15 felony charges for collecting evidence, I'm not surprised there's no evidence. Also, I'm always suspicious of claims like that... "don't evaluate their video evidence on its own merits, discount it because nobody else has similar evidence from other locations" makes no sense. Again, if the video really was misleadingly edited in a deceptive way, nail them for that.

    • Re:Double confused (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Are you kidding me?

      1. The animal abuse videos are usually not recorded in california where the state wiretapping laws apply.

      2. The animal abuse videos are mostly visual images of people stomping on animal's heads and kicking them in the throat. They are not audio recordings of conversations.

      3. Animals don't have conversations.

      4. Wiretapping laws do not apply to animals.

      5. States have tried to make recording undercover abuse videos illegal. They failed [latimes.com].

      PS-- your PS doesn't make sense for the above reas

      • Re:Double confused (Score:4, Insightful)

        by steveha ( 103154 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @08:04PM (#54139263) Homepage

        If I am understanding you correctly, it is legal in California to record visual evidence of a crime, but not audio of someone discussing willingness to do illegal things. This possibly answers my objection. If it's a protection against self-incrimination, I don't think I can object to it.

        If 60 Minutes has made undercover videos in California that included audio recordings, and they were never prosecuted for it, then I have an objection again.

        As for the rest of your comments, you seem a bit confused. The animals are not accused of anything; the secret videos were of humans doing things to animals, and those secret videos are apparently perfectly legal.

        P.S. "Flamebait"? Seriously? Moderators, if you must mod me down just because you don't like what I wrote, the traditional one to use is "Overrated". I may be overrated but I'm neither trolling nor flamebaiting.

        I really do think the law should be easy to understand and applied even-handedly. Justice should be blind, and people I hate should be treated the same as people I admire.

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          Look at the 60 minutes segments very carefully. Note that in some cases they present video with the reporter voice over repeating what was said rather than simply playing an audio recording. That's because they didn't record audio for legal reasons.

        • Re:Double confused (Score:5, Insightful)

          by kqs ( 1038910 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @09:21PM (#54139637)

          If I am understanding you correctly, it is legal in California to record visual evidence of a crime, but not audio of someone discussing willingness to do illegal things. This possibly answers my objection.

          I'm not trying to be rude here, but did you really complain about the unfairness of the laws when you have NO IDEA WHAT THE LAWS ARE? Really?

          Many states (plus the federal government for recordings across state lines) make a very large distinction between video and audio recording. Video is usually fine, with certain major limitations. Audio is often/usually not fine, again with many caveats. Every state is different.

          If you try to compare the legality of video recordings (like most animal abuse recordings) and of these audio+video recordings, then you are just showing a complete lack of knowledge about the subject and a complete unwillingness to spend the 20 minutes of googling it would take to become partly informed. Please, take those 20 minutes.

          And, again I'm not trying to be rude, but this shows that you don't really let facts get in the way of your opinions. You can continue on this way, or you can change and try to become informed. It's your choice, but it's kinda an important one I think.

  • by devloop ( 983641 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @07:29PM (#54139003)
    While I agree that the "activists" violated California's privacy laws, this is not much different from what PETA routinely does while secretly filming farmers. To my knowledge, this has never resulted in PETA being prosecuted. To the contrary, the video has been used as evidence in legal filings and lawsuits to stop cruelty and abuse against animals.
  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @07:31PM (#54139011) Homepage

    Is recording someone really a felony? I would expect it only to be against the law if you released the recording, and still a civil matter. Their are entire shows, Marketplace for one, which operate on recording people secretly to uncovering illegal and suspect business practices.

    • by kqs ( 1038910 )

      Is recording someone really a felony?.

      Are you really asking this when about 20 seconds of googling would tell you? Wow. Not a fan of facts, I see.

      In many states, recording audio when all parties have not agreed is very very illegal, yes. California is one of these states. The laws are complex, full of caveats and details, and vary between states and between audio and video recordings. Shows like "Marketplace" are very careful to stay on one side of the law. These yahoos were not, which means they probably committed a felony.

      Also, shows li

    • by iris-n ( 1276146 )

      As these videos led to a terrorist attack [wikipedia.org], I think charging those idiots with a felony is entirely appropriate.

      That the felony in question is only related to the recording of the video is irrelevant to me. Al Capone was, after all, arrested for tax evasion.

  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @07:38PM (#54139067) Homepage Journal

    You do not have the right to film the police all the time, anywhere. Only when they are in a public place, performing their duties.

    This is all about the expectation of privacy. Planned Parenthood might be, to a small degree, publicly funded, but they are still a private organization. In their own offices, they have an expectation of privacy, unless they knowingly give it up> You cannot knowingly give it up if you being secretly recorded.

    Some states (and, IIRC, federal law) require the consent of only one party to record. California is not one of them. Some states that require all-party consent treat it as a civil offense - you can sue someone who records you without permission. California is not one of them. Some states treat it as a misdemeanor - you can go to jail for it. California is not one of them.

    California has made audio recordings, when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, without permission from all parties, a felony. 14 people secretly recorded, 14 charges (plus on for conspiracy).

    These yahoos chose California from the perception (not especially accurate) that it is the most eeeeeevillllll librul state, and thus, most likely to get them footage they could edit into something that will get them a lot of money.

    They choose poorly. Now they get to pay the price.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      They choose poorly.

      This.

      You would think that someone setting up a sting like this would seek even a little bit of legal advice. Or even just f**king Google it.

    • by cirby ( 2599 )

      Only when they are in a public place, performing their duties.

      This is all about the expectation of privacy. Planned Parenthood might be, to a small degree, publicly funded,

      "To a small degree" meaning "about 40 percent of their budget comes from the US government."

  • If you are filming in a medical facility are you not violating medical privacy laws? Intruding on the rights of health care workers and possibly other patients?

  • by buss_error ( 142273 ) on Wednesday March 29, 2017 @09:50PM (#54139801) Homepage Journal
    Didn't we just determine that filming officials is not merely a right, but a First Amendment right?

    We did. We determined that it is a right to film government officials in public. This filming (and subsequent editing that changed the meaning of the conversation) occurred not in public and not with Government officials

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.

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