A federal judge last week allowed a lawsuit against conservative activists James O’Keefe and Hanna Giles to proceed, according to Courthouse News Service.
Former ACORN worker Juan Carlos Vera sued O’Keefe and Giles in 2010 for allegedly illegally taping their confidential conversation to make the now infamous “ACORN pimp” video. After the heavily-edited video was released in 2009, Vera was fired from ACORN and Congress later voted to defund the organization, which led to its bankruptcy.
California law that prohibits people from recording confidential conservations without the consent of all parties involved. The law excludes communications made in “any other circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded” such as in public places.
O’Keefe argued that Vera had no expectation of privacy. But U.S. District Judge M. James Lorenz said that Vera “reasonably believed that the conversation was private because it was held in his office with no one else present, and he believed that no one else was listening in on his conversation.” He denied O’Keefe’s motion for a summary judgement.
Lorenz added that O’Keefe had “misled [Vera] to believe that the conversation would remain confidential by posing as a client seeking services from ACORN and asking whether their conversation was confidential.”
The video made it appear that Vera had given human-smuggling advice to O’Keefe and Giles while the two conservative activists were dressed as a pimp and prostitute.
However, it was later revealed that Vera had reported their fake child prostitution ring to the police. A California state investigation later cleared Vera and other ACORN workers of any wrongdoing.
“Even if O’Keefe and Giles had truly intended to break the law, there is no evidence that any of the ACORN employees had the intent to aid and abet such criminal conduct or agreed to join in that illegal conduct,” the California Department of Justice concluded (PDF).
The California Department of Justice agreed not to prosecute O’Keefe and Giles in exchange for providing the full, unedited videotapes. The department said their report “strongly suggests that O’Keefe and Giles’s violated state privacy laws and provides fair warning to them and others that this type of activity can be prosecuted in California.”