ACORN Filmmakers Giles, O’Keefe Sued in Philadelphia Federal Court

Hannah Giles and James O’Keefe III, the independent filmmakers behind the series of videos which swept the nation in 2009 and exposed internal corruption and illegality within ACORN Housing Corporation, were sued today in federal court in Philadelphia by an ACORN employee featured in one of the pair’s films.

The plaintiff is Katherine Conway-Russell, a Philadelphia resident who has worked for ACORN since March 2008 as an office director.  It was Conway-Russell who met with Giles and O’Keefe, posing as a prostitute and pimp as they had in ACORN offices nationwide during other installments of the undercover video series, for a private interview in her office at ACORN’s facility in Philadelphia on July 24, 2009.  This is the first such suit filed against the filmmakers by an individual ACORN employee

The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, claims that the Giles and O’Keefe “purportedly sought information regarding housing and mortgage opportunities in Philadelphia, but were in reality imposters who deliberately and surreptitiously created video and audio recordings in an attempt to discredit plaintiff Conway-Russell and ACORN Housing Corporation,” and that they subsequently “disseminated the illegally obtained recordings in a manner calculated to harm and injure” Katherine Conway-Russell.

Conway-Russell alleges that the actions of Giles and O’Keefe ran afoul of Pennsylvania Law and, indeed, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania all parties to a conversation must be aware of and consent to any recording.  According to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5703, it is a felony of the third degree to intentionally intercept, endeavor to intercept, or get any other person to intercept any wire, electronic, or oral communication without the consent of all the parties.

Conway-Russell insists that O’Keefe and Giles violated not only Section 5703, but also Sections 5701 and 5725, sections which set out the “Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act” and provide for a civil cause of action for a person whose oral communications were intercepted, disclosed or used in such a way. Under the latter, anyone whose communication has been intercepted can recover actual damages of $100 per day of violation or $1,000, whichever is greater, and can also seek punitive damages and costs related to the litigation.  Conway-Russell is seeking, from both O’Keefe and Giles, compensatory, liquidated and punitive damages, as well as costs related to the suit.

According to the complaint, minutes before Giles and O’Keefe turned up at the door, O’Keefe called to set up an appointment to “discuss election matters,” but the office informed him that “ACORN did not provide advice on running campaigns.”  O’Keefe, the complaint states, then asked for advice with regard to a mortgage-related issue, “but given the context of this request, the ACORN representative declined to set up an appointment.”

Once they turned up at the ACORN office, Conway-Russell says, they were ushered into her office under the “pretext that they were there for housing and mortgage advice.”  The complaint goes on from there:

Unknown to plaintiff Conway-Russell, defendants O’Keefe and Giles had no interest in mortgage our housing issues; rather, they were there to attempt to entrap ACORN Housing employees into engaging in inappropriate counseling. In furtherance of this goal, defendants O’Keefe and Giles secretly recorded by hidden camera and microphone the entire conversation they had with plaintiff.

Plaintiff Conway-Russell, in accord with her responsibilities as an ACORN Housing counselor, properly advised the defendants that she could only provide information regarding mortgage possibilities and could not assist them in any other matters.

Could not assist them in any other matters?  Judge for yourself in the video below by Giles and O’Keefe.  Note that some of the audio is muted because of another lawsuit, this one filed in September 2009 by ACORN itself against not only the filmmakers, but also against Andrew Breitbart, whose BigGovernment.com site was integral in the dissemination of the videos.

Through the months of July and August in 2009, Giles and O’Keefe took undercover video footage in Baltimore, Washington D.C., Brooklyn, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Philadelphia.  The first tapes were released on BigGovernment.com on September 10th and additional videos were released throughout that week until a total of five had been released, all by September 17th.  Each of the videos showed ACORN employees eager to help facilitate tax evasion, human smuggling and child prostitution.

Although the mainstream press tried to ignore the story at first–former ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson was famously oblivious to it, and it took more than a week for the networks and newspapers to address it at all–the strategically staggered release schedule created by Breitbart created a story too large to be ignored.  Soon, ACORN had been exiled from the 2010 Census project, excluded from a volunteer tax-assistance program, and was forced to sit idly by and watch as legislation was rushed through the House and Senate to cut all future federal funding destined for the organization.

After initially denying all charges only to look foolish upon the release of additional video footage, ACORN finally went after Giles and O’Keefe personally and took to the courts on September 23, 2009, when the Baltimore ACORN office filed the aforementioned suit against the pair in Maryland, along with Breitbart and Fox News Channel.  In a separate legal action, the group managed to get the House and Senate bills overturned as unconstitutional, thus reinstating their eligibility for federal funds.

Katherine Conway-Russell v. James E. O’Keefe III, Hannah Giles, 2:10cv00276, was filed on Thursday in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Conway-Russell is represented by David Rudovsky of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg LLP.

For a PDF copy of the complaint, click HERE.

For more information about Conway-Russell v. O’Keefe here at America’s Right, including how the case got to where it is now, and what might happen in the near future, click HERE.

__________

Jeff Schreiber and Robert Wallace, editors at America’s Right, contributed to this report.

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Comments

  1. YouShouldKnowBetter says:

    If this case isn’t dismissed then the law books need some serious updating. I find the fact that an organization that gets taxpayer funding was caught giving this advice disgusting. Even more deplorable is the fact that our president is affiliated with the same organization.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Lets start our own action group.. A.THORN
    We gotta get up in these Marxists grills and be a major pain in their arse.
    Our republic is doomed if we don’t take on these losers.

  3. tdaly says:

    I’m so very sorry Hannah and James that you have to go through this corrupt unfair system that rewards foul behavior. Just remember that you did the right thing.

  4. CJBernard says:

    Can’t say we didn’t see this coming. I’ll be looking forward to see what comes next.

  5. Steve03259 says:

    These ACORN people are scum … They lie, they cheat, and even though they get caught doing it they come and sue. Its sad that the POTUS is involved with these people.

  6. DG in GA says:

    Do Hannah and James have a legal defense fund set up yet? Isn’t this usually the last resort of the left? Use the courts to punish those who expose our corruption and stupidity!!!

  7. Let us know where to send donations to their legal defense fund and where to focus our attention to get funding for acorn stopped,and I mean stopped!

  8. ACORNSucks says:

    it’s just another indicator of this something-for-nothing society … this woman is probably just in need of money to buy a new tv.

  9. Count de Money says:

    My understanding of wiretap laws is the conversation has to be of a “private” nature. A phone call is considered private. A conversation in an open office where anybody can walk in (and people do in some of the videos) is not considered private. My call: dismissed with prejudice.

  10. Randy Wills says:

    Congratulations, Jeff and Robert, on this article being picked up by BigGovernment.com as the featured story of the day.

    Great job.

    Randy

  11. Michelle Zhang says:

    As much as I don’t like what’s happening, they are within their legal rights to do this.

  12. Don says:

    Good luck ACORN lackey on the “entrapment” complaint. Last I heard, only a government or government agent could entrap a suspect. The intent of this law was clearly aimed at the government or employer-employee association. This is a freedom of the press item through and through. How many reporters over the years have used hidden recording devices?

  13. Bryan F says:

    I hope this Lawsuit is not dismissed until after Discovery and Deposition’s now that will be something worth recording.

  14. Adam says:

    I loved the videos and don’t like ACORN and all, but they really should have picked states without two-party consent for wiretapping laws. I assumed they’d done this, but as far as I can tell, PA’s laws make what they did illegal wiretapping. Not good.

  15. Rock says:

    And yet Black-Panthers intimidating voters at a polling place get a free walk, surly suggest that the Justice system under Obama is not only blind to ACORN, and Black-Panthers corruption, but will do what ever it takes to smother opposition to Obama and his henchmen. The real fear is that our police in heavy Democratic cities seemed to have become complicit in the corruption. I will always view those who wear a badge in such areas with suspicion. Obama and his wish for a national police force does not seem such a fantasy when the obvious Obama justice machine has infected the Nations Courts.

  16. Old Vet says:

    The filmmakers have said that they look forward to being in court. I look forward tothe discovery phase of this farse. ACORN will have to open all and I mean all of their books to the defendants laywers. And, if they find any connections to the national organization, the ycan then look at the Rathke brothers and trigger RICO charges after the traitor in chief is completely netrualized.

  17. whereisjustice says:

    How is what James and Hannah did any different than an ordinary citizen taping police officers beating a suspect, or any person committing a crime being taped and it being used against either the police or criminal?

    People get taped everyday by people’s cell phones, and small cameras. I think the fact this was a office where people were coming and going it seems that the idea of confidentially makes this lawsuit frivolous.

    Where is the justice in the fact that these ACORN offices gave information to James and Hannah to circumvent the law or actually commit crimes?

  18. elspeth says:

    Lets start our own action group.. A.THORN

    I love it!

  19. gene logan says:

    What a pompous and frivolous lawsuit – more waste of taxpayer money.
    I hope that these two people can at least try to counter sue her individual as American citizens for corruption, malfeasance, theft, and anything else that is similar. What a pompous law suit. Doesn’t the whistle-blower protection act protect here?

  20. Charles Kirtley says:

    We are through the looking glass when someone who is caught doing something illegal can sure the people who caught them.

  21. Boston Blackie says:

    What is so different about these videos than what 60 minutes and all the other news magazine shows do all the time. I say bring it on!! Let’s go right to the discovery portion and depositions. We need a link to any defense fund set up these two heroes as well as Andrew Breitbart. They have said they have many more videos, please release them all. We need to expose these thieves, the lame stream media will never do it.

  22. Giles and O’Keefe are courageous patriots, no less so than those who “illegally” dumped the tea into the Boston harbor in 1773. Their courage in putting themselves out on the front lines deserves our praise and support.

    http://libertyatstake.blogspot.com/

  23. VA Patriot says:

    Agree with Old Vet. Let’s see the rest of the roaches run for the hills after RICO turns the light on.

    Stand your ground you two and let us know when and where to send donations. ACORN and it’s backing with our tax money needs to stop dead in it’s tracks.

    As for you ACORN “workers” – get a real job and quit enabling the lazy and criminal element in our society.

  24. FlyDiesel says:

    There must be an expectation of privacy. For example, if you walk through a video in a public place, you can’t demand destruction or even suppression of the video. Otherwise, there would be no such a thing as a news report in Philadelphia in which every single person in a rally didn’t have to sign a release. They were in a room with an open door and people were coming and going. I would expect liberal judges to ignore or obscure this point which should prevail on appeal. ACORN intends to make this an expensive endeavor and lock down the filmmakers so as to blunt the ongoing attack, all while financed by the public.

    Like the President, ACORN is despicable, arrogant, and has a sense of entitlement. Neither have any sense of shame.

  25. Me says:

    Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe! I’ll go and read some more! What do you see the future of this being?

  26. Quik Hit says:

    Bwaaaaaahahahahahahahaha Classic Liberals. Instead of hanging their heads in shame, they bring up a dead story again by filing this stupid lawsuit. This is GREAT!!! Keep the lawsuit alive till the midterm elections!

    Get on the bus!!!

    Wooooo Hoooooooo

    Stupid ACORN.

  27. platypus says:

    This is a frivolous lawsuit. I googled 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5703 and the third entry was the statute called ‘definitions.’

    The gist of the law is interception, not recording (a mistaken characterization in the article). To say that a person cannot record their own conversations is insane and voila, this law is not insane. The same flawed reading is present in the Maryland lawsuit filed by ACORN and therefore it is just as frivolous.

    This will be kicked out on a failure-to-state-a-claim motion. The sweet part will be ACORN paying Giles and O’Keefe’s attorney fees.

    The unbearable sweetness of it all.

  28. Dave says:

    The reason America is in this mess and the solution can be read here.
    WE ARE AMERICANS by Sam Gipp
    http://hosted.homeserver.com/warneveryone/we_are_americans.htm

  29. Ivan says:

    It is time for war against the left. We need to arrest them all and terminate their miserable political treason.

  30. wiser says:

    What a joke this woman is, could she be just another “freeloader” wanting to make quick buck?

  31. ted409 says:

    well bully be dammed after the video clearly shows what they said , ACORN managed to get there elgibility back. i just wonder if and when they will ever receive any funding after that video was shown. i thought it was great myself.
    considering the age of the defendants i doubt they have 5000 between them. maybe acorn would be willing to take over the payments on there student loans instead.
    also a bankruptcy would be a good solution if and when the case ever goes to trial and the plantiffs win.
    these two people did the country a great service by showing what really goes on at acorn.

  32. Jeff Schreiber says:

    It is time for war against the left. We need to arrest them all and terminate their miserable political treason.

    Can’t say I agree with this one. We need to show America that liberalism and statism is the wrong idea. Let these people marginalize themselves. So long as right-thinking Americans stay the course once they’re back in power, we should be on the right track for years to come.

  33. Berta Lewis says:

    ACORN – The original…
    ————————————————
    C O M M U N I T Y — W H O R E G A N I Z E R !!
    ————————————————
    Spreading the blight for almost 40 years!

  34. Cabby - AZ says:

    It makes me sick to see how these two courageous young people are being treated,
    although it is not surprising that the heat would be on. Acorn is deeply entrenched
    in the fabric of America – the darling of the hard-left, if you will, and any time such
    an outfit is exposed for what it really is, we can expect strong opposition and
    retaliation. This is the nature of the enemy we are now facing, sad to say.

  35. garyrose says:

    If WE HAD A PRESIDENT FOR WHICH I AM NOT SURE WE AMERICANS DO?? THIS YOUNG COUPLE NEEDS GOOD RECOGNITION FOR EXPOSEING THE CORRUPPTION BY A.C.O.R.N ?? AND PROBABLY MANY MORE CORRUPT TAXPAYER SUPPORTED GROUPS OUT THERE?? MAYBE LARAZA FOR STARTERS? M.E.C.H.A.? L.U.L.A.C. CHICANOS PORLACASA? FREINDLY HOUSE? ALL 1 RACE CONCENTRATED GROUPS AND MOST WORKING AGAINST AMERICA? HOW THAT FOR HANDLING AMERICAN TAXPAYER DOLLARS SUPPORT YOUR ENEMY?? AN AMERICAN

  36. How oh how did she ever get STANDING or will she be thrown out on the standing standing clause, Judges use nowadays? PEACE and LOVE Pastor Charles

  37. liberty law says:

    I’m not sure if I totally agree. However, you do have a decent argument. Perhaps I can create a post in opposition to your argument.

  38. Xavier says:

    LOL, James O’Keefe got arrested today!

  39. No says:

    I can’t believe people defend them…IT’S FUCKING WIRETAPPING YOU MORONS. There are LEGAL ways to find if an organization is corrupt…they deserve to go to jail and get it in the ass.

    Yes, you can record a conversation – for PERSONAL use – distributing it is ILLEGAL. Right morons.

  40. Dan says:

    A few legal and ethical questions answered…

    Q: “Why can’t Mr. O’Keefe III film ACORN employees when Police oficers get filmed all of the time?”

    A: ACORN is a private non-profit corporation that advocates in the public domain. Just because a corporation gets public assistance does not mean that they are then a public corporation and/or entity of the public (like Police officers who are on duty). Therefore, the people who work for ACORN still have an expectation of privacy. In other words, even though they work in a public capacity ACRON employees are private citizens whom have an expectation of privacy and who are (in most states; i.e. Pennsylvania) not allowed to be filmed (or recorded) without their permission. Police officers can be filmed without permission as long as they are on duty and acting in the capacity of a public officer. That is to say, you are allowed to film/record a public official without their permission as long as they are working (i.e. acting within capacity of their public position).

    Q: “If a business (like McDonalds, gas-station surveillance, etc.) is allowed to film someone without their permission then why can’t Mr. O’Keefe film ACORN employees?”

    A: The next time that you walk into a business, read the signs very carefully. If there is a recording device on the premises then most likely there is a small sign notifying you that you’re being recorded. Have you ever made a phone-call to a business and heard, “This call may be recorded for quality assurance.”? Courts have decided that if you hear that message and remain on the line that you agree to being recorded. The courts apply the same logic to being video recorded by a business.

    A question of ethics…

    I am a high-school journalism teacher and a proud Teddy Roosevelt Republican. However, I must point out that the manner in which Mr. O’Keefe III is conducting himself is highly un-ethical (in terms of journalistic ethics). There are at least a couple of ways that Mr. O’Keefe has acted unprofessionally and unethically.

    1.) The number one rule of journalism is to never record someone without their permission. Period. Every journalism teacher knows this as surely as they know their own name. This goes back to E. Kant’s idea of Autonomy. To record someone without their permission is to violate their Autonomy. So long as Mr. O’Keefe III attempts to record people without their permission (whether it be in states that require all party notification or not), he will not be acting as a true/ethical journalist.

    2.) As if that weren’t bad enough, Mr. O’Keefe III has been shown to “splice” and alter recordings of people to alter the true meaning of what they said while being recorded. This is also seriously unethical. There will no doubt be those who cry, “The ends justify the means.” Journalism is quintessentially the pursuit of truth via differing perspectives. REAL journalists (and scientists) never splice the story to fit their pre-conceived notions; rather, REAL journalists remain objective from start to finish and follow the truth even to places they sometimes wish it wouldn’t take them (i.e. the Vietnam War).

    Mr. O’Keefe III may be many things (sailboat enthusiast, trust fund kid, etc.), but a REAL/ethical journalist he is not. That does not mean that he will never be an actual or ethical journalist; all it means is that his current and former journalistic endeavors do not qualify as journalism in any decent sense of the word. Until methods change, Mr. O’Keefe III’s low-brow “work” is un-intellectual propaganda at best (just like most of Fox News’ programming).

    Sincerely,

    Dan the Journalism Teacher

  41. Awesome Dude says:

    You people are all friggin’ nuts.

  42. Tom Hyatt says:

    Dear AR:
    Why no mention of the fact anywhere that your ACORN pimp got busted in New Orleans this past Monday for attempting to burglarize Sen Landrieu’s office? Why, hell, you could even call it a “third rate burglary” a la the Watergate break-in. It sounds pretty darn suspicious that federal marshals were just “hanging around” the NO federal building, doesn’t it, waiting to victimize a conservative freedom fighter like Jimmy. Well, they probably were libruls, like most useless federal bureaucrats. This extra added 15 minutes of glory for conservative activist Jimmy O’Keefe will make it much more likely Fox News Channel will proceed to hire him on as part of its new investigative reporter team, along with his girl friend, Hannah “the ho” Giles. The MSM and MSNBC will no doubt twist and distort the whole thing as usual, making O’Keefe out to be some kind of common criminal burglar. Let’s face it, he’s anything but common.
    T.S. Hyatt

  43. Jeff Schreiber says:

    Tom Hyatt — there’s mention of it in the Assigned Reading section. There are also some details that I can’t share (I’m still waiting for verification), but the information is there.

    Trust me, Tom, if I gloss over something here at AR, it’s because I’m swamped with everything else, not for some ideological reason. I don’t like to shy away from fact.

    Jeff

  44. stella says:

    left a little out about the videotapes? Like, they were edited before airing. Not all the ACORN employees assisted the imposter pimp and ho with requessts for illegal advice. FOX and http://www.bigovernment.com are also being sued by ACORN. Who is paying the defense’s legal bills in this PIMPGATE?

  45. I’m still a little mislead on your post here. Do you actually believe this? I don’t say you’re wrong, but you will have to create a great debate to convince other people that you are right.

  46. I do not believe I would be ready to do that. But after reading this post here makes me feel a bit like I could do it.

  47. AAAAA says:

    Can you imagine, nobody is going to want to hire her. If you take two people to court who exposed corruption, I’d never want to give you a job, ever! I wonder what she thinks she is going to accomplish by suing James and Hannah. I think it’s going to do her more harm than good! Think about how many people are going to be angered by the fact that she’s trying to take two people to court who exposed corruption. Wow! Bad call on her part!

  48. Colin Laney says:

    O’Keefe won’t release the unedited tape because ACORN didn’t do anything illegal. All the stuff about underage illegal alien prostitutes was not recorded in the office. This was added as voice-over in the editing process, like the scene with O’Keefe dressed as a pimp. The answers you heard from ACORN employees were to questions you didn’t hear, not the ones on voiceover.

    I guess lying is not dishonorable if you’re lying about left-wing black people.

  49. kaneria says:

    If Ms. Conway russell did nothing immoral or illegal and as stated above followed correct procedures they should be punished for what this has undoubtedly done to her. The organization did not condone what was done by the bad apples and punished them so why should a good honest person be punished and drug through the mud because her co-workers were wrong. the filmakers had no right to invade her privacy or to release and try to discredit her in that way. Go down to the court and ask the people who work there in Philadelphia what a credit and help miss Russell has been in stopping foreclosures and saving homes. I have only been priveleged to meet her once and it was an honor and if she needs witnesses to her character Myself and all 150 members of my organization would be there. and to the person wondering where she would ever find a job there are many people like myself who would be honored to have someone of her character working with us.

  50. Hunter Rose says:

    I’m amazed at how terribly uninformed some people can be.

    It is a proven fact that O’Keefe deliberately edited the tapes to create the false impression that ACORN or its employees were breaking the law.

    They didn’t. The investigation revealed as much.
    http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-03-01/news/27057678_1_acorn-offices-o-keefe-and-giles-prostitution

    Unfortunately, those who listen to Fox News or Rush Limbaugh will not be aware of this, and will go on believing something that is simply not true. They will also continue to believe ACORN has some nefarious agenda that it does not.

    O’Keefe will be successfully sued. Not because the ‘system’ hates ‘free speech’, but because he has deliberately lied to cause damage to individuals and the organization they work for.

    Not that such a thing as facts, reason, or justice mean much to some people.

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