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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fired ACORN Worker Wins $100K Settlement From Republican Con Artist James O’Keefe

Originally posted at The Brad Blog

Former San Diego ACORN worker Juan Carlos Vera will receive $100,000 in a settlement from federal criminal and professional liar James O’Keefe, after being secretly videotaped in violation of California law by the right-wing propagandist. The tape was just one in a series of similar videos, all deceptively edited as part of his 2009 ACORN “pimp” hoax series.

The story of the settlement was originally broken by Wonkette, which published the three-page settlement document [PDF], yesterday.

Several official investigations, including those by the former MA attorney general [PDF], the Kings County, NY district attorney, and the CA attorney general all determined that there were no violations of law by any ACORN worker seen in the surreptitiously taped videos. The officials found the tapes were “highly” and “deceptively” edited.

The videos were published originally by the late Republican con-man Andrew Breitbart, who, before he died of heart failure just over a year ago, was likely to have been pulled into the civil case as well, after disclosures that he had paid O’Keefe for the videos and had advance knowledge of the scheme to secretly videotape workers in violation of CA’s Invasion of Privacy Act.

After Breitbart’s publication, the edited tapes were widely covered, without fact-checking, in both the right-wing media such as Fox “News” and non-right-wing media such as the New York Times. The Times was eventually forced to issue partial corrections for their inaccurate reporting after a six-month effort by The BRAD BLOG to point out how they’d been duped by O’Keefe, who had lied about appearing as a 70s-era “Blaxploitation”-style pimp in the offices of ACORN.

A 2010 investigation by the CA attorney general determined there was “no criminality” by ACORN workers seen in any of the raw videotapes. O’Keefe and his partner Hannah Giles agreed to turn over the unedited tapes in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution in the state. “The evidence illustrates that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality,” California’s then AG Jerry Brown said in a statement accompanying the release of his office’s investigation, which “involved attorneys from all three legal divisions – criminal law, public rights, and civil law – as well as special agents from the department’s Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence.”

“Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor,” he added.

While the deal left the AG’s office unable to prosecute the duo, the criminal investigation found that O’Keefe and Giles likely violated the civil provisions of CA’s Privacy Act and could be sued under those provisions “for recording a confidential conversation without consent.” Vera, who, after his odd meeting with O’Keefe and Giles had the wherewithal to contact the police, sued both of them in July of 2010 for violations of the act.

Giles had the common sense to settle with Vera last summer after a string of losses in court. O’Keefe, on the other hand, attempted to argue a First Amendment privilege as a “journalist” to secretly videotape Vera. Judge M. James Lorenz soundly rejected the argument in May of 2011, but O’Keefe persisted in his unsuccessful defense.

O’Keefe now finally faces at least some accountability in the settlement, which, in addition to agreeing to pay $100,000 to the former ACORN employee, notes that he “regrets any pain suffered by Mr. Vera or his family.”

Thousands of ACORN workers were left unemployed by the O’Keefe/Giles/Breitbart stunt after the U.S. Congress also fell for it. In 2010 they passed legislation, signed by President Obama, that federally defunded the four-decades-old community organization that advocated to end predatory lending practices and helped millions of low- and middle-income Americans obtain housing loans and legally register to vote. The group was forced to shut its doors in the wake of the manufactured scandal.

While O’Keefe, Giles and Breitbart helped perpetrate the long-held GOP lie that ACORN was involved in voter fraud, there is not one piece of known evidence to demonstrate that even one illegal vote was ever cast thanks to an improper registration by any of the organization’s tens of thousands of voter-registration workers.

The only question now: Will any of those other ACORN workers who were improperly fired due to O’Keefe’s illegal, secret videotapes file suit against him as well?

UPDATE: Conor Friedersdorf’s coverage of the Vera/O’Keefe settlement over at The Atlantic points out that, to this day, Breitbart’s “news” site, where the fake ACORN stories were originally published, still has the original inaccurate story sliming Vera — published as is, with no correction, even though it was long ago debunked as nonsense, and even since O’Keefe has agreed to apologize and pay him $100,000 in the settlement as described above. Read more here.

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