As was widely predicted, a former employee at the San Diego ACORN office has brought a lawsuit against right-wing activist journalists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles who surreptitiously recorded him while posing as a pimp and a half-naked hooker seeking accomplices in the commission of crimes of prostitution, statutory rape and kidnapping.
Juan Carlos Vera was fired after O'Keefe's San Diego ACORN exposÃ© was released. The segment seemed to show Vera discussing crimes agreeably. Called 'undercover reporting', the sting was shown to the world in exclusives given to hyper partisan Fox TV host Sean Hannity who wholly tarred ACORN for condoning underage prostitution and human trafficking.
After informing an unprecedented vote by Congress to defund ACORN (later found unconstitutional), ACORN was cleared of all criminal wrongdoing in the videos, and in particular the footage showing Vera was ordered investigated by California Attorney General Jerry Brown who cut a strange backroom deal with O'Keefe in exchange for access to the full unedited San Diego tapes.
Brown's office reportedly agreed not to bring criminal charges against O'Keefe and Giles for violating state privacy laws. After reviewing the tapes however, Brown concluded the tapes were "severely edited", suggesting Vera "may be able to bring a private suit".
When the report was released, an April 2010 segment of the Rachel Maddow Show showed how Vera was taken out of context, suggesting to Congress and Fox viewers "you've been had" explaining that Hannity failed to mention Vera had notified the cops of O'Keefe's criminal suggestions.
Instantly, MSNBC's Maddow and the segment became the target of O'Keefe's media handler Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart's Big Journalism blogsite published a slew of rapid-response "articles" demonizing Maddow:
April 8: In "Maddow: O'Keefe Hid Important Facts About ACORN!!!!" author "Patterico" calls Maddow's piece "pointless" oddly claiming O'Keefe never misled the public about being dressed in garish pimp garb, followed by crass comments calling Maddow "tuna breath" and "Ralph Macchio". April 9: In reply to Larry O'Connor's "Maddow Leaves Truth On the Cutting Room Floor" one comment calls Maddow "a crazy man" while another says Maddow "blocks and tackles for ACORN when they're caught red-handed in child sex trafficking of Latinas". April 19: Andrew Marcusin's "Exposing Rachel Maddow As a Fraud In 16 Seconds Flat" paints Maddow a "soulless shill who makes excuses for an organization which repeatedly exhibited a willingness to commit federal crimes involving the sexual exploitation of immigrant children". Andrew Breitbart never tried to hide that he had been paying O'Keefe for this brand of investigative reporting, but O'Keefe hid other funding ties between himself and shadowy rich benefactors as unearthed by one Village Voice report.
O'Keefe's videos have shown ACORN employees giving improper advice in Brooklyn and Baltimore, but because his evidence gathering methods baldly constitute entrapment, no charges could ever be filed. Then too, the attempt to broad brush the entire organization showed how Fox TV, Hannity's radio show and Breitbart's websites make up a well bankrolled mass messaging operation coordinated with GOP members of Congress.
First reported by San Diego's CityBeat, Vera's legal complaint is pretty cut and dry, alleging that O'Keefe and Giles asked him to keep their conversation confidential and then aired selectively edited recordings of it. Vera is seeking compensation for violation of his privacy rights according to California's 1967 Invasion of Privacy act.
Since airing the ACORN recordings, O'Keefe has been convicted of misdemeanor charges involving another 'undercover' investigation. According to O'Keefe, he was attempting to film phone workers checking Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu's phones in an attempt to embarrass her for not answering the many calls opposed to her vote on healthcare.
The phone workers were actually O'Keefe's activist pals again playing dress up, however, resulting in convictions for entering federal property under false pretenses. At his sentencing, O'Keefe explained that he will continue his investigations using "other means".
O'Keefe was also sued January in federal court by an employee he taped in the Philadelphia ACORN office, but another lawsuit brought against O'Keefe by ACORN in Baltimore was dropped for inaction after ACORN was dissolved.
Vera's lawsuit will be interesting as O'Keefe tries to bring his partisan opinions about ACORN into a legal proceeding. Sean Hannity was already caught last fall falsifying video to make his cases stronger but it is unknown whether he will be dragged into the suit as one of twenty "John Does" mentioned in the complaint. Supporters of Vera have launched a Facebook page where people can join in agreement Vera is owed redress. Vera's camp asserts his conversation with O'Keefe was meant to elicit information to feed to the police, while O'Keefe's supporters continue to suggest Vera was tantalized by "Eden" the naughty young prostitute portrayed by Giles and that he unquestionably was trying to help this pair of strangers convert young girls into sex workers.
In a potential damages inquiry, it could come out that neither Hannity or any Fox staff made any known attempt to solicit a statement from Vera prior to airing claims against his character in a rush to the wrong judgment.
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