Convicted federal criminal and right-wing dirty-trickster James O’Keefe appears to have flagrantly run afoul of the rule of law yet again. This time, he appears to have violated and/or conspired to violate Maryland’s (MD) Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act. It would not be the first instance of him having done so.
The apparent violation(s) of state felony laws, revealed today as part of what is being reported as O’Keefe’s “botched” attempt to “punk CNN”, comes on the heels of O’Keefe’s previous apparent violations of the very same laws in MD, though law enforcement officials have yet to hold him accountable, to date, for those previous offenses.
Documents and other material produced by CNN today suggest that O’Keefe secretly, and illegally, taped phone calls he had with CNN’s investigative journalist Abbie Boudreau, and conspired to secretly video tape her in a compromising situation, also in violation of MD law.
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O’Keefe, who is currently on probation after pleading guilty to a federal misdemeanor following another botched scheme in Louisiana earlier this year, seems to have broken similar laws last year in a number of states, including Maryland, where he secretly video taped employees at the offices of the community organization ACORN in Baltimore. Despite requests to MD law enforcement by a non-profit watchdog organization for a criminal investigation into the previous apparent violations of the state’s felony wiretap laws – and despite recognition of the “possible” violation of those laws in a number of law enforcement investigations elsewhere – no action has been taken to date by state officials…
The ‘Botched’ CNN Scam
According to a report today by Scott Zamost of CNN’s Special Investigations Unit, O’Keefe and his newly formed under-cover operations organization calling itself Project Veritas, had attempted a scheme to secretly videotape CNN’s investigative journalist Abbie Boudreau in a ploy to “burden her career with this video” and damage the reputation of CNN in the bargain.
Documentation produced by CNN reveals a bizarre plan involving an attempt by O’Keefe to lure Boudreau onto a boat in MD that was to be decked out as a “pleasure palace”, replete with adult sex toys, in order to video his attempts to seduce her on hidden camera. Boudreau had been attempting to interview O’Keefe as part of an upcoming documentary, Right on the Edge, covering activities of young, right-wing activists like O’Keefe and his crew.
The scheme reportedly blew up after Boudreau was tipped off to it, just prior to the purported boat meeting with O’Keefe, by Project Veritas Executive Director Izzy Santa who, says Boudreau, decided the scheme was a very bad idea. Santa has reportedly been removed from her position with the organization today.
The CNN journalist also reports that she was sent internal emails from the Project Veritas group, which included audio attachments of a phone call with Boudreau that was taped by O’Keefe. If O’Keefe made the call from Maryland at the time, and if Boudreau was not aware she was being recorded, that would be a criminal violation of Maryland Law, Annotated Code of Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article §10-402 requiring two-party consent for audio recordings.
In addition to unlawful recording of a conversation without permission of all parties, recording, with or without consent, with criminal or tortuous purpose, is itself illegal under state law. Documents released by CNN, along with snippets of internal email from O’Keefe and others, reveal a clear intent to harm both Boudreau and CNN, to “burden her career” and “hurt [CNN’s] credibility”.
If, in fact, O’Keefe had planned to carry out the seduction scheme on the boat, which included hidden cameras, as discussed in the documents with his colleagues, that would involve a conspiracy to violate the wiretap laws as well.
Late today, in an interview Boudreau, Media Matter’s Joe Strupp reports the CNN journalist tells him that O’Keefe “was dressed up” in a way that suggested the scheme described in the Project Veritas documents was, indeed, under way in MD until it was interrupted by Santa.
“It had an effect on me wondering how far a person like him is willing to go,” Boudreau told Strupp. “There are few rules and really no boundaries,” she said.
O’Keefe’s past behavior demonstrates that even the law does not serve as a boundary for James O’Keefe.
Last July, government watchdog organization VelvetRevolution.us (VR) had notified MD’s Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and the State’s Attorney Patrica Coats Jessamy about O’Keefe’s previous apparent violations of the very same state privacy laws.
In a July 4, 2010 letter [PDF], VR requested criminal charges for O’Keefe in light of violations of Maryland’s Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act after he secretly video-taped workers in the offices of the four-decade old, anti-poverty, pro-democracy community organization ACORN. [FULL DISCLOSURE: The BRAD BLOG is a co-founder of VR.]
In the letter, VR attorney Kevin Zeese describes O’Keefe’s actions in his highly-edited ACORN “sting” tapes as a “clear felony according to the statute” and notes that “Violations of the law are felonies punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years and a fine of not more than $10,000.”
Moreover, Zeese called for conspiracy charges to be brought against O’Keefe and his partner in the ACORN scheme Hannah Giles, as well as Andrew Breitbart who later admitted to employing the pair.
In the ACORN affair, O’Keefe secretly videotaped workers while posing as Giles boyfriend, claiming that she, as a prostitute, was being stalked by a dangerous pimp from whom he was trying to protect her.
CNN, and others, have inaccurately reported that O’Keefe “posed as a pimp” in those ACORN interviews when, in fact, his appearance as a 70s-era Blaxploitation Pimp was deceptively edited into the videos later.
Though the New York Times eventually corrected some of their coverage after The BRAD BLOG’s month-long campaign to force them to retract their misreporting, they never fully corrected the record. Even Boudreau, in the preview for her upcoming CNN documentary, inaccurately describes O’Keefe as having represented himself as “a pimp” when, in fact, he never did so.
While at least four different official investigations all found no violations of law by the ACORN workers seen in the video tapes, California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s report “found that O’Keefe and Giles may have violated state laws in California and Maryland prohibiting covert recordings.”
O’Keefe and Giles were given immunity from criminal prosecution in California by Brown in exchange for the complete, unedited versions of the videotapes. In Maryland, however, state law enforcement has yet to take action.
With O’Keefe previously having gotten off scot-free in MD after his apparent violations of law in the ACORN matter, it seems he may have felt free to do so yet again in the CNN caper revealed today.
Earlier this year O’Keefe ran afoul of the rule of law again when he conspired with colleagues to access the phone system of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) at her offices in New Orleans. After initially being charged with a federal felony, O’Keefe retained superstar GOP legal representation who eventually helped him to receive a deal in which he pled guilty to misdemeanor charges.
His federal sentencing in the botched LA caper included three years probation, a fine of $1,500 and 100 hours of community service.
It appears that, if in fact O’Keefe again ran afoul of MD’s privacy laws, he may also have violated his federal probation in the Louisiana conviction.
Attempts by The BRAD BLOG to reach Boudreau for more details, and clarity on whether or not she gave permission for the recorded phone calls, and where O’Keefe made them from, have so far been unsuccessful.