In a statement, the Harris County district attorney, Devon Anderson, said Monday that the director of the Center for Medical Progress, David Daleiden, had been indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs.
Another center employee, Sandra Merritt, was indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record.
The Center for Medical Progress had covertly shot videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the provision of body parts from aborted fetuses for research. Mr. Daleiden, 26, had posed as a biotechnology representative to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and surreptitiously record his attempts to procure tissue for research.
The activists have claimed that Planned Parenthood has engaged in the illegal sale of body parts — a charge the organization has firmly denied.
Ms. Anderson said in the statement that grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. She did not specify in the statement what record or records were allegedly tampered with.
“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Ms. Anderson said. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”
The case started in August, when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican and an outspoken opponent of abortion and Planned Parenthood, asked the Harris County district attorney to open a criminal investigation into the organization. His request came after the release of an undercover videotaped at a Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast office in Houston with a research official for the organization. Mr. Patrick said the video showed the group “discussing the gruesome and barbaric work of Planned Parenthood and what appears to be its profiteering from selling body parts from aborted babies.”
In a statement at the time, Mr. Patrick said, “This newest video makes it clear it is time for prosecutors to launch a criminal investigation in Harris County immediately.”
Ms. Anderson described the investigation on Monday as “lengthy and thorough,” and said it involved her office, the Houston police and the Texas Rangers. She said grand jurors reviewed the joint investigation for more than two months and cleared Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of breaking the law. She declined to provide details about the case against Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt, including any documents or evidence presented to the grand jury, citing state law on the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.
Gov. Greg Abbott said on Monday that the inspector general of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas attorney general’s office were continuing to investigate Planned Parenthood’s actions.
“Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement. “The State of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”
Mr. Daleiden has been praised as a hero by some religious opponents of abortion. On Thursday, Mr. Daleiden was a featured guest at an Evangelicals for Life conference and was interviewed by Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family.
Asked by Mr. Moore whether it was morally consistent to engage in lies and deception to obtain information, Mr. Daleiden said that undercover work is “fundamentally different from lying,” according to BaptistNews.com, because its underlying purpose “is actually to serve the truth.”
Ms. Anderson, a Republican, was appointed district attorney by Gov. Rick Perry in Sept. 26, 2013, and was later elected to the office.