Human Rights

Justice Sought: Former San Diego ACORN Employee Files Lawsuit Against Rightwing Activists

Juan Carlos Vera is suing James O'Keefe, the ACORN "pimp," and Hannah Giles (his "ho"), for at least $75,000 in accordance with California's Invasion of Privacy Act.

Rightwing dirty-trickster and convicted federal criminal James O'Keefe and his accomplice Hannah Giles are being sued for invasion of privacy by a San Diego ACORN worker.

Juan Carlos Vera was fired by the 4-decade old anti-poverty, pro-democracy community organization after deceptively edited and secretly recorded video tapes of a meeting Vera had with O'Keefe and Giles were released by the pair and published on Republican propagandist Andrew Breitbart's websites. The tapes were then widely aired on Fox "News", as well as non-Rightwing media outlets.

Vera is suing for at least $75,000 in accordance with California's Invasion of Privacy Act which, according to the short, four-page complaint [PDF] filed at week's end in U.S. District Court, "prohibits the recording of confidential communications without the consent of all participants where there is an objectively reasonable expectation that the conversation is not being overheard or recorded."

In April of this year, CA Attorney General Jerry Brown completed a five-month probe into O'Keefe/Giles/Breitbart's secretly-taped ACORN videos and found "no criminality" by any of the ACORN workers seen on what he described as "severely edited" tapes.

He did, however, find that O'Keefe and Giles themselves were likely to have violated California law, and could see private litigation brought against them...

According to the CA Penal Code, as detailed in Vera's complaint, "any person who intentionally and without consent of all parties to a confidential communication records such conversation is guilty of a crime, punishable by imprisonment in state prison or county jail."

However, in a deal with O'Keefe and Giles, the AG granted the pair immunity from criminal prosecution under the state's Invasion of Privacy Act in exchange for the full, unedited videos which they had previously refused to release. The AG's office reviewed them and then released the unedited tapes in full at the conclusion of their investigation.

"The evidence illustrates that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality," said Brown in a statement when he released his report. "Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor."

As The BRAD BLOG has documented for many months now, the activists edited their tapes to appear as if O'Keefe dressed as and represented himself as a pimp to ACORN workers. He did neither. In fact, he represented himself as Giles boyfriend, hoping to save her from an abusive pimp. Moreover, the highly edited tapes were edited to give the impression that ACORN workers advised the pair on how to break the law. Here's just one example of how O'Keefe and Giles misrepresented what had actually occurred in the meetings and on their deceptively cropped tapes.

The blatantly dishonest hoax, however -- amplified and enabled by a wholly uncritical mainstream media -- was brutally effective and destructive, coming as part of the years-long assault by the GOP and the Right against ACORN, largely for having had the temerity to legally register hundreds of thousands of low and middle-income (read: Democratic-leaning) voters to legally cast a vote and participate in their own democracy.

Vera's complaint goes on to note that the eavesdropping and recording provisions of the Penal Code, Section 632, "defines confidential communication to include "any communication carried on in circumstances as may reasonably indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the parties thereto."

"Although the Act contains exemptions for particular individuals or circumstances," the complaint reads, "no exemption exists for filmmakers, the media, or journalists."

In his 28-page report [PDF], the CA AG explained that since O'Keefe and Giles received immunity from prosecution after providing the complete tapes, they "did not determine if they violated California's Invasion of Privacy Act when they recorded the ACORN employees. If the circumstances meet the requirements of the Act, the ACORN employees may be able to bring a private suit against O'Keefe and Giles for recording a confidential conversation without consent."

Former San Diego ACORN worker Juan Carlos Vera, has now filed such a private suit against O'Keefe and Giles.

In addition to naming O'Keefe and Giles, the suit also specifies unnamed defendants "DOES 1-20 inclusive," allowing for the plaintiff to add additional co-defendants later, as the need arises throughout the discovery phase of the case. As the secret video tapes made in California were the last among a number of such tapes made by O'Keefe and Giles (the others on the East Coast), and as O'Keefe and Giles' employer/pimp Andrew Breitbart lives in Los Angeles -- and has lied about the tapes in the past, as seen in both his newspaper column and on video tape -- it seems quite possible that he would have been aware of the video taping in advance of the California meetings, at the very least.

If so, we'll be neither surprised nor saddened to see Breitbart named as one of those DOES in the not-too-distant future.

Brad Friedman is the publisher of The BRAD BLOG. He has appeared in the documentaries Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections and Murder, Spies & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story.
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