James O’Keefe pleads the First in ACORN secret video case
Republican prankster James O’Keefe is claiming freedom of the press in a lawsuit that accuses him of violating privacy laws by secretly video taping an ACORN worker.
In August 2009, O’Keefe and his sidekick Hanna Giles posed as
a pimp and prostitute and skeezy boyfriend* at an ACORN office in National City and recorded worker Juan Carlos Vera supposedly giving advice on human trafficking and prostitution. The footage was part of a larger media stunt masterminded by O’Keefe, but was later found by the California Attorney General’s office to have been edited intentionally to mislead viewers. Evidence also emerged that Vera had reported the incident to his brother, a police officer, shortly after the conservative activists’ visit.
Vera, who was fired as a result of the video, filed suit against O’Keefe and Giles in July in US District Court in San Diego, citing a California privacy law banning secret recordings. O’Keefe’s attorney response to the complaint was made public yesterday; as could be expected, the defendant neither denies or affirms most of Vera’s assertions, claiming that he “lacks sufficient information to admit or deny the allegations” throughout the filing. O’Keefe lists several defenses without much elaboration, except for this one:
Plaintiff’s Complaint is barred in whole or in part by Defendant O’Keefe’s federal and state constitutional rights of free speech and freedom of the press, including without limitation under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
A neutral evalution conference between the parties is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Dec. 16. O’Keefe is represented by Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe both in San Diego and other ongoing cases around the country; the firm collectively and through its PAC donates largely to Democratic political candidates.
* I have corrected this to be clear that O’Keefe portayed himself as a pimp only after the fact. To quote from the Attorney General report:
In each of ACORN offices they visited together, Giles posed as a prostitute fleeing an abusive pimp, and O’Keefe posed as her boyfriend, trying to help her, and, in some instances, attempting to benefit from the proceeds of the prostitution trade. Although O’Keefe is dressed in stereotypical 1970s pimp garb in the opening and closing scenes of the videos released on the internet, when O’Keefe visited each of the ACORN offices, ACORN employees reported that he was actually dressed in a shirt and tie. Also, contrary to the suggestion in the edited videos,O’Keefe never stated he was a pimp. Although their story morphed over time, the couple requested advice from ACORN employees related to Giles’ prostitution business, including obtaining a mortgage, reporting income and taxes from the illicit business, avoiding lawenforcement scrutiny, smuggling young girls into the country to serve as prostitutes, and obtaining documentation and voting privileges for them. Woven into the narrative and conversations were tales of Giles’ flight from an abusive pimp and how the girls could be keptsafe from the pimp, albeit employed as prostitutes. O’Keefe wore a hidden camera and secretlyrecorded audio and video of the conversations.