ACORN sues O’Keefe, Giles and Breitbart

ACORN has filed a lawsuit against the makers of a hidden-camera video that showed employees of its Baltimore office giving tax advice to a man posing as a pimp and a woman posing as a prostitute.

The liberal activist group contends that the audio portion of the video was obtained illegally because Maryland requires two-party consent to create sound recordings.

The two employees seen in the video were fired after it was posted online. The lawsuit says the employees, Tonja Thompson and Shera Williams, suffered “extreme emotional distress.”

Andy Freeman, a Baltimore attorney who represents ACORN, Thompson and Williams, told WBAL News that the fact the two workers were fired is not relevant to the lawsuit.

“No one is defending some of the things that the employees said, but in Maryland we have the right to say dumb things in the privacy of our homes or our offices, without the fear of being taped,” Freeman said.

The multimillion-dollar lawsuit seeks damages from James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, who played the pimp and prostitute in the videos, and from conservative columnist Andrew Breitbart, who posted the videos on his Web site.

“This is really more about the principle than about the money,” Freeman added.

Brietbart said he would respond with his lawyer to a request for comment. He told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that he looked forward to a lawsuit because he expects unsavory details about ACORN to be unearthed in the discovery process.

O’Keefe and Giles could not immediately be reached. Asked by Fox News earlier this month about the possibility of a lawsuit, O’Keefe said, “Bring it on.”

The Baltimore Sun has more on the lawsuit including this:

The filing could not be confirmed by a check of electronic Maryland court records.

The Sun also has an editorial discussing City State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy’s refusal to investigate the videos along with the current investigation by Attorney General Doug Gansler:

ACORN, though officially nonpartisan, has engaged in voter registration activities that have significantly benefited Democrats, the party to which Ms. Jessamy and every other Baltimore elected official belong. No matter what her justifications are, it doesn’t smell right for her to look the other way when the rest of the country has witnessed an ACORN employee tell someone she thought was a pimp to claim underage girls from El Salvador as dependents.

O’Malley says MD Attorney General to investigate ACORN

Baltimore Sun:

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Doug Gansler said the probe will “involve everything,” although she declined to say whether it includes the videos, which could constitute a violation of Maryland’s two-party consent law.

The article mentions that Gansler asked permission to initiate the investigation from Governor Martin O’Malley, whose office made the announcement via a press release. Neither O’Malley’s or Gansler’s website has a news release or other announcement about the ACORN probe as of yet.

ACORN’s spokeswoman told the Sun they “welcome” the investigation as a way to clear their name.

Previously, Gansler had said the ACORN videos made in Baltimore “are no more relevant to us…than a murder that takes place in Florida…”

Gansler also previously refused to remove an ACORN link from his office website. Local State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy refused to investigate ACORN, saying any potential evidence in the video may have been illegally obtained, and threatened to prosecute the makers of the video.

UPDATE did receive the Governor’s release (which is still not on his official site):


ANNAPOLIS, MD (September 21, 2009)- Governor Martin O’Malley announced today that he has granted the Office of the Attorney General the authority to investigate, and if appropriate, prosecute conduct involving the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

Earlier today, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler requested the authority to investigate allegations of the events surrounding ACORN. The Governor granted the authority pursuant to Article V, §3 of the Constitution of Maryland.

The Office of the Attorney General is authorized to use all necessary subpoena powers, to present to an appropriate grand jury any evidence and testimony considered necessary to carry out this authorization and directive, and to act with the full powers, rights and privileges possessed by a State’s Attorney. If criminal conduct is uncovered by this probe, the Office of Attorney General is authorized to bring and to prosecute appropriate charges in any court of this State against any and all persons and entities involved in or associated with the crimes.

### also reported the following:

The Governor has given the authority for the Attorney General to investigate the activities of ACORN in Baltimore.

The move comes after hidden camera video surfaced in Baltimore and across the country of ACORN employees giving advice to a man and woman posing as a pimp and prostitute.

Members of Maryland’s Senate Republican Caucus sent a letter to the Governor last week requesting he have the State Prosecutor investigate the organization.

O’Malley’s office says the AG requested the authority today.

Attorney General Gansler’s office tells WBAL Radio, “ordinarily as we stated this falls in the jursidication of the local prosecutor. As time when on it became clear the local authorities were not going to pursue the matter. It was obvious someone needed to look into it.”

ACORN to sue O’Keefe, Giles, Breitbart; fired workers to file criminal complaint in MD today?

Update: Just some clarification since there’s a bit of confusion in the blogosphere about what actually is going on. ACORN as an organization is the one said to be suing the filmmakers and Breitbart to stop distribution of the video. In an entirely separate action, the employees on the video in Baltimore who were fired by ACORN are said to be filing criminal charges against Giles and O’Keefe.

Former ACORN workers in the city are planning to file a civil complaint against the makers of the video, according to the website Investigative Voice.

City state’s attorney Patricia Jessamy said on WBAL’s Shari Elicker Show that she could not prosecute based on restrictions for evidence obtained illegally.

Maryland law requires two party consent to be recorded.

Investigative Voice

Former employees of the beleaguered community activist group ACORN are planning to file a criiminal complaint in Baltimore against the creators of the series of videos that have spurred outrage against the organization, knowledgable sources have told Investigative Voice.

The filing could come as soon as Friday afternoon, sources said.

The criminal complaint will allege that recordings of the group’s employees giving advice on how to evade taxes and house underage South American sex workers to journalists posing as a pimp and prostitute were obtained illegally.

The criminal complaint is expected to name both James O’Keefe, 25, and Hannah Giles, 20, along with the owner of the website Breitbart, which initially released the videos.

ACORN is also contemplating a civil suit seeking an injunction aginst O’Keefe and Giles to prevent them from distributing the videos, according to an an email.

Other blogging:
Robert Stacy McCain
Dan Riehl
The Jawa Report
Lakeshore Laments

GOP senators call on Governor O’Malley to condemn ACORN

September 17, 2009

Governor Martin O’Malley

State House

Annapolis, MD  21401

Dear Governor O’Malley

The members of the Senate Republican Caucus have been troubled by the national scandal exposed over the past week about actions of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform) staff members who offered advice on undertaking criminal activity and defrauding federal and state governments.  The fact that the first release of such information involved ACORN staff operating in Baltimore City has blemished our state’s reputation.

We are also concerned about the lack of interest by those responsible for upholding the state’s laws in proceeding with an investigation of these actions of ACORN.  Both Baltimore City State’s Attorney Patricia Jessemy and Attorney General Douglas Gansler have offered public commentary on the Shari Ellicker show (WBAL Radio) professing that no investigation is needed because no one in their Maryland constituency is upset by this national controversy.

We believe that public confidence is shaken when the chief law enforcement officials turn a blind eye towards potential criminal activity in the state.  Potential violations of several state and federal law occur when staff of a private nonprofit organization, supported by public financing, is providing advice on the human trafficking of minors for sexual activity and operating houses of prostitution and avoiding state and federal taxes.  In fact, just five months ago the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 542 - Criminal Law - Human Trafficking - Inducing or Enticing because of the public’s overwhelming concerns about criminal activities involving child prostitution. You signed this bill on April 14, 2009

Obviously, state leaders who have shunned this topic are concerned about political ramifications of speaking against ACORN even though they are supposed to be a non-political organization.  Maryland law provides specifically for the conduct of an independent criminal investigation when the elected officials are politically compromised.

We call on you to refer this matter to the Maryland State Prosecutor as provided for in, Criminal Procedure Article, Section 14-107(b).  ACORN provides services throughout the state of Maryland,  therefore, a request by the Governor for the independent State Prosecutor would relieve State’s Attorney Jessemy and Attorney General Gansler of the political liabilities of leading such an investigation of potential criminal activity that is conducted in more than one political subdivision of the state.

A strong statement by you would send a signal to Marylanders as well as citizens across the nation that our state leadership does not condone any actions that would support businesses engaged in the sex trafficking of children.  It also would help restore integrity to our state that has been tarnished by this national crisis.

Very truly yours,

Allan H. Kittleman                                         Nancy Jacobs

Senate Minority Leader                                  Senate Minority Whip

Cc: Attorney General Douglas Gansler

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller

As we predicted first, state may prosecute filmmaker who made ACORN video

I was the first blogger to mention this as a possibility yesterday.


Baltimore, MD – September 11, 2009 – We have received inquiries from citizens and the media asking whether the Baltimore City State’s Attorneys Office would initiate a criminal investigation for acts allegedly committed at ACORN offices located in Baltimore. The only information received in reference to this alleged criminal behavior was a YouTube video. Upon review by this office, the video appears to be incomplete. In addition, the audio portion could possibly have been obtained in violation of Maryland Law, Annotated Code of Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article §10-402, which requires two party consent.

If it is determined that the audio portion now being heard on YouTube was illegally obtained, it is also illegal under Maryland Law to willfully use or willfully disclose the content of said audio. The penalty for the unlawful interception, disclosure or use of it is a felony punishable up to 5 years.

The above statement was also run by WBAL in their news story on the item.

From that story:

The Baltimore city state’s attorney is considering prosecuting those responsible for taping the ACORN employees on charges that they violated Maryland’s wiretap laws.


The Maryland state prosecutor’s office went after Linda Tripp in the 1990s on two wiretap charges. Tripp was accused of illegally taping a phone conversation with Monica Lewinski [sic] about her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton and disclosing the conversation to Newsweek. Prosecutors decided to drop the case when Lewinski’s [sic] testimony was suppressed.

You should let Baltimore City State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy politely know your opinion on this issue. You can send her an email to [email protected] or call her office at (410) 396-4001.

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