Anti-abortion activists who secretly recorded Planned Parenthood employees during conversations about purchasing fetal tissue now face 15 felony charges for making the recordings.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra charged David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress each with 14 counts of unlawfully recording people without their permission -- one count for each person recorded -- and one count of conspiracy to invade privacy, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Becerra, a former Democratic member of Congress who stepped down to take his state's attorney general job in January 2017, said his office "will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations."
He said, "The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society."
Daleiden, whose organization is based in Irvine, California, denounced the charges as a violation of his First Amendment rights.
"The bogus charges from Planned Parenthood's political cronies are fake news," Daleiden said in a statement. "We look forward to showing the entire world what is on our yet-unreleased video tapes of Planned Parenthood’s criminal baby body parts enterprise, in vindication of the First Amendment rights of all."
In am email to The Associated Press, Daleiden was even more blunt, calling the charges "bogus."
"The public knows the real criminals are Planned Parenthood and their business partners," Daleiden said.
Becerra's decision to charge Daleiden and Merritt come nearly one year after charges related to their recordings were dropped in Texas.
The anti-abortion pair were charged with tampering with government records for using fake identification, which they allegedly used to deceive Planned Parenthood employees into speaking with them.
In the Texas case, a grand jury failed to find enough evidence to warrant a prosecution.
"The grand jury took the investigation where the facts led it; however, Texas law limits what can be investigated after a grand jury extension order is issued," Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said in a statement, according to The New York Times. "In light of this and after careful research and review, this office dismissed the indictments."
The videos released online by Daleiden and Merritt were controversial and garnered a great deal of media attention and became a rallying cry for anti-abortion politicians.
But the videos were also said to have been heavily edited, making them misleading.
"They spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their anti-abortion agenda," Melaney A. Linton, the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said in a statement after the Texas charges were dropped. "The decision to drop the prosecution on a technicality does not negate the fact that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the extremists behind this fraud."