The civil trial against Republican propagandist and con-artist Andrew Breitbart's salaried employee James O'Keefe --- a convicted federal criminal as well as propagandist and con-artist in his own right --- continues in San Diego where a former ACORN employee has sued both O'Keefe and his partner Hannah Giles for violations of California's privacy act.
The case arises from the secret video taping by O'Keefe and Giles of then ACORN employee Juan Carlos Vera, as part of the deceptively edited hit videos the pair would later release on Breitbart's several propaganda websites. Vera was terminated after the release of the videos, despite having committed no wrongdoing --- he had even notified local police about the pair, after he suspected they were up to no good --- as confirmed in a detailed report by the California Attorney General last year. O'Keefe and Giles, on the other hand, as the CA AG found, most likely "violated state privacy laws." While they were given criminal immunity by the AG in exchange for the raw, unedited video tapes, they remain liable for civil violations of the that law.
Now it appears Breitbart himself may be pulled into the case, and we're likely to soon learn how much he paid O'Keefe and Giles for their hit tapes.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin has adjudicated a discovery dispute by ordering both O'Keefe and Giles to disclose payments Breitbart made to them, as well as email communications and other relevant documents concerning the illicit video taping of Vera.
While that is likely to offer an interesting expansion of this story soon (and we'll offer a few more details from the court's ruling below), more than anything what caught our eye in this story for the moment, was the reporting by local journalist Heather Johnson of Courthouse News. She broke the story this week, and managed to actually report accurately on the details of O'Keefe and Giles' ACORN hoax.
On the other hand, the "paper of record" New York Times is still unable to do similarly. Even though we'd already forced a number of other corrections to their repeated misreporting on this, they've still managed to misreport the facts of O'Keefe's ACORN "pimp" hoax as recently as late last June and then again in late July.
So, to offer you (and, actually, the New York Times) an idea of what accurate reporting on O'Keefe --- a man who has, since his ACORN con, also pled guilty to a scheme involving an attempted wire-tap plot of a sitting U.S. Senator --- looks like, just read the first three grafs of Johnson's coverage this week...
The lawsuit stems from an attempted video "sting" conducted by O'Keefe, accompanied by defendant Hanna Giles, dressed as a prostitute.
Many media reports characterized O'Keefe as posing as a pimp since he wore "stereotypical 1970s pimp garb" in the opening and closing scenes of certain videos he released, but he wore a shirt and tie in the actual encounters, identifying himself as Giles' concerned boyfriend, according to the California Attorney General's Office.
Now, is that so hard, New York Times??? Apparently so. The rest of Johnson's report is equallyaccurate. So our thanks to Johnson for bothering to cover the story and to get it right. Particularly, since it seems that virtually nobody else in the media has been willing to do so over the full two years since O'Keefe/Giles/Breitbart's hoax tapes succeeded in shutting down one of the nation's largest, oldest, and most important community organizing groups at the end of a years-long Republican witch-hunt against them due almost solely to their good work in legally registering millions of low- and middle-income (read: Democratic-leaning) voters to participate in their own democracy.
Now, back to the substance of the court ruling, and the latest status of Vera's legal case against O'Keefe and Giles and, soon possibly, Brietbart.
When the case was filed against the pair, the plaintiff included additional defendants "John Does 1 - 20." That is frequently done when plaintiffs are uncertain if others were involved in the conspiracy at time of filing. Those "Does" may later be substituted by another defendant once identified during the course of discovery.
For the moment, Vera's attorneys are clearly targeting Breitbart as an additional conspirator, by focusing on his knowledge of the illicit scheme, as demonstrated by payments made to co-defendants O'Keefe and Giles.
In his finding, posted in full here [PDF] Judge Dembin has agreed that both O'Keefe and Giles must turn over various information, such as payment details and communications between the pair and Breitbart --- though the Judge questions why only Breitbart, for the moment, is the subject of this discovery request.
Here's his finding in regard to plaintiff's request for disclosure of payments made by Breitbart to O'Keefe (similar language was used in response to the same request from Giles):
This Interrogatory requires Defendant to disclose any payments made to Defendant by Andrew Brietbart or any related person or entity. Defendant objects on grounds of overbreadth and relevance. Plaintiff asserts that a website controlled by Mr. Breitbart broadcast the interview that is the subject of this complaint.
The Court believes that it may be relevant that Defendant was paid for the video of Plaintiff. Such a payment may inform the intent of the Defendant in engaging in the alleged illegal activity and Plaintiff must prove that the actions were intentional. See California Penal Code § 632. The reason that Plaintiff has limited his inquiry to one person is less than clear but the Court will ORDER Defendant to respond by disclosing any payments made by Mr. Breitbart or any related entity which pertains to the video recording of Plaintiff.
As well, the court ruled that "communications with Andrew Breitbart" between O'Keefe and/or Giles concerning the illicit video taping of Vera at the San Diego ACORN office must be produced as well.
On the other hand, the court denied plaintiffs' requests for communications about, and raw footage of, the other secret video tapes of ACORN workers that O'Keefe and Giles made elsewhere in the country, finding that they have no relevance to the California case.
Last May, a Federal judge soundly rejected O'Keefe's attempt to dismiss the case on the basis of his claim that he had a First Amendment right, as a "journalist," to secretly videotape Vera.
Prior to that, in February, Giles attempted to remove herself from the case by claiming that it was O'Keefe, not she, who secretly video taped Vera --- since he was the one holding the camera. That argument was also rejected by the court.
O'Keefe and Giles now have 30 days from the date of the September 23, 2011, court order to respond to the Interrogatories and Request for Production, as ruled by the judge.
If successful in the trial, Vera is seeking at least $75,000 in compensation, a very small amount to folks like O'Keefe, Breitbart and Giles --- especially as O'Keefe is being represented by his Republican attorneys on a pro bono basis, as noted by TPM. That number could easily rise before all is said done, for a number of reasons, particularly if Breitbart is added to the case, if Vera is successful in his suit.