September 23rd, 2009
06:48 PM ET
5 years ago

ACORN sues filmmakers

The videos have sparked controversy over ACORN, already under fire amid election fraud claims.
The videos have sparked controversy over ACORN, already under fire amid election fraud claims.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - ACORN filed suit Wednesday in Baltimore, Maryland, against two filmmakers who secretly recorded videos embarrassing to the agency, claiming the pair violated state law by recording their conversations without permission of the employees involved.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction preventing the further distribution of the videos.

The recordings represented "clear violations of Maryland law that were intended to inflict maximum damage to the reputation of ACORN," the community organizer's attorney, Arthur Schwartz, said. " ... Unfortunately, they succeeded."

Defendants James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, conservative activists posing as a pimp and a prostitute seeking advice on setting up a brothel with underage girls from El Salvador, recorded the videos in Baltimore and three other cities.

Breitbart.com, registered to Washington Times conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, is a co-defendant in the lawsuit. Contacted by CNN, Breitbart had no comment on the suit. O'Keefe and Giles did not respond to requests for comment.

The tapes show ACORN employees suggesting or condoning a series of illicit actions. The two Baltimore employees - Shera Williams and Tonja Thompson, who were fired - are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"Although we do not condone what our former employees did, no matter how entrapped they were, we are also committed to our 500,000 members that we will hold the defendants civilly and criminally responsible for their violations of Maryland laws and for the damages inflicted upon ACORN's reputation," said
Bertha Lewis, the organization's chief organizer.

ACORN - the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - said O'Keefe and Giles also attempted to capture similar videos at ACORN offices in other cities but failed.

The release of the videos prompted a groundswell of action against the 39-year-old organization, including a limited investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and a slashing of funds from the federal government and several states.

In addition, the organization announced a hiring freeze, new training programs and an internal investigation in the wake of the video controversy.

Two other ACORN employees also were fired after O'Keefe, Giles and co-defendant Breitbart.com released the videos.

ACORN for some time has been in the cross-hairs of conservatives, who have repeatedly pushed for voter registration fraud investigations against the organization.

At least 11 states already had been investigating ACORN for alleged voter registration fraud stemming from the general election in 2008. Most of the allegations concern fraudulent forms submitted by temporary ACORN employees hired to register voters in poor and minority areas. None of the allegations relate to fraudulent voting.

ACORN itself initiated an investigation in Florida that resulted earlier this month in 11 arrests for fraudulent voter registration.

Updated: 8:17 p.m.


Filed under: ACORN • Popular Posts
soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. Right Leaning Independent

    Put me on the Jury.... Pleassssse!!!!!!

    September 23, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  2. Jim

    Aren't these the video's where there is a woman playing along saying outrageous things that were presented as true, and the man who actually did contact law enforcement about them after they left? Shouldn't these be added to the coverage of the story?

    September 23, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  3. Max Leygrume

    AWESOME! Except the part about them using MY tax dollars for a court fight.

    Can't WAIT for the discovery portion of the trial...should really paint ACORN in the positive light – they so justly deserve.

    Voter registration fraud – PROVEN

    Vote stealing scheme – PROVEN

    Tax cheats – PROVEN

    Value of 'community organizers' – PROVEN

    September 23, 2009 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  4. DG

    The US govt. should file suit aganist ACORN and demand the millions of dollars taxpayers have given them. The leadership of ACORN must be brought to justice.

    September 23, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  5. Jon McCurley

    Glad to see there being brought to justice!!!! I hope Obama shuts them down for good! Another example of liberals gone wild with our tax dollars!

    September 23, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  6. NICE REAL NICE

    how about tell the folks that the IRS cut ties with ACORN today. FACT

    also the US CENSUS cut ties with them last week. FACT>

    come on cnn. get with it.

    day late dollar short..

    September 23, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  7. Hippocrates Massachusettes

    How low can they be? The ACORN. They take our tax money and the services they provided were all BAD. From voter fraud to....all these

    September 23, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  8. annie against biased news

    There should be a class action suit filed by the citizens of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA against acorn for squandering our tax dollars and acorn, seiu, tides, etc all should be thoroughly investigated by independent investigators chosen by the citizens of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!!

    September 23, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  9. EnoughChange

    One of the FUNNIEST things I have ever read!!! What about the 11 states already INVESTIGATING this corrupt, Obama run organization??? That happened before the videos aired so...... sorry – it's a BAD APPLE and should not get ONE DIME FROM ME NOR THE U.S. GOVERNMENT!!!

    I guess this is what our HEALTHCARE SYSTEM will look like if OBAMACARE passes – what a GREAT organization – FULL of integrity, HONESTY, and example to all!!! HA HA HA HA........ what a corrupt organization that's only job in 2008 was to get their MESSIAH elected!!!

    NO MONEY FOR YOU!!!

    September 23, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  10. Chris

    Acorn can not escape this damaging video, THEY ARE GUILTY! The bottle has been uncorked and the Genie has escaped. Too Late guys! You are guilty of fraud in 17 different states and have committed 37 ""known"" instances of fraudulent voter registration.
    .
    Sorry but just because your Democrat and Liberal doesn't make it alright to commit fraud and rig elections.

    September 23, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  11. Devon Cloud

    I find it to be a sad part of our society that we are allowed to sue someone even when we ARE in the wrong.

    At the very least, ACORN is guilty of not managing their employees properly. At the other end of the spectrum, they are thugs and deserve jail time. Wherever the pendulum swings, they deserve what they get... Yet they will get to sue (and probably win) these people who made the videos. I am a liberal, and this is rediculous to me. ACORN, you got caught. Deal with it.

    September 23, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  12. Ken

    This just shows how corrupt ACORN really is. Anybody with half a brain would know these videos are viral and will exist on the net for ever. Yet they decide to sue the folks who exposed them, knowing perfectly well they lack the money for any type of defense. If the leaders of ACORN had any decency, they would thank the two for helping show their organization has problems, and then swear by god to fix them starting with sweeping firings of high level personnel in all the cities that had issues. Then maybe they could actually get back to their true purpose and mission. Instead, the seek to attack and defame those shining the light of truth on them. Shame.

    September 23, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  13. Ken

    They should sue. What gives anyone the right to see what is really happening in the "acorn" world? Once obama gave acorn his blessing while campaigning for the presidency, they should be allowed to do anything they want. How dare someone capture the truth? What is happening to this world when criminals can't break the law in private? Acorn has a different set of standards. They can't be held to the same scrutiny that other groups are held to. Afterall, they are "community organizers!" Leave them alone. Let them spend their money any way they want. It's not like their spending federal tax dollars.

    September 23, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  14. stephen pelton

    Grand jury leaks to the NY times have been condoned for the last sevral decades. Investigative reporters that reveals confidential or restircted informatoin is applauded if it makes the 'correct' individual looks foolish, nasty or unethical regardless of how they come by the information. Those not so committed ACORN that they actually read the mounting evidence about a lack of ethics at ACORN not going see calling foul or time out or replay as anthing but failing to take responsibility for its personnel and culture.

    September 23, 2009 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    first admendment !!!!!!

    September 23, 2009 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  16. Don

    Of course ACORN is going to sue, they need to make sure others in their organization are not caught doing something wrong on tape. Now we know for sure that they have more to hide.

    September 23, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  17. Ken

    Isn't this typical of liberal thinking? Acorn employees break the law, compromising acorn's image, and now they want to blame someone else for destroying acorn's reputation. Dumb, typical and very liberal.

    September 23, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  18. valwayne

    I appeared to me from Newspaper and TV accounts that ACORN was a criminal organization heavily engaged in voter registration fraud, and inproperly accounting for taxpayer funds before I saw those videos! So I don't see how much damage to their reputation. Also in the videos its not the investigative journalist/filmakers that are damaging ACORNS reputation. It their own employees! ACORN seems to agree that their employees were at fault because they fired them. This all seems kind of silly to me?

    September 23, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  19. Darth Vader

    ACORN should just man up and admit that they were clearly in the wrong. If they were really committed to their 500,000 members as they say they are – they would be thanking the filmmakers instead of slapping them with a silly lawsuit. This type of stuff is what's wrong with the country. They were wrong – but they are scrambling to file lawsuits so that they can deflect from the real issue....

    September 23, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  20. Mark

    What I dont get is why didnt these employees have any kind of criminal charges pressed aginst them by the state? I mean they did break conspiracy laws by knowing trying to help someone break the law! THAT'S ILLEGAL!

    September 23, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  21. Melissa

    ACORN should have all federal funding stripped. Period. I don't even understand why our taxpayer dollars are put towards organizations such as this, anyway. Why is it that I can't save more of MY money for MY retirement versus having part of my money funneled to organizations that are geared to helping only certain segments of the population, anyway. It really is more advantageous to be poor in America than to get a good education and obtain a high salary job. No, I am not from a rich family at all, but we made it through all by ourselves....

    September 23, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  22. Tom

    ACORN "You caught me, no fair, I'm suing you".

    September 23, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  23. can't condone what the employees did

    it might have needed to be done, to get ACORN to tighten its ship a little bit... obviously ACORN was picking up employees with out regard to how honest they were or if they were a good citizen or not

    at the same time, the conservatives were obviously out to get ACORN, that to is shameful, if conservatives condone this behavior then I say watchout because you will be set up and the weakest link in your employee chain will end up all over the national media

    gotcha journalism works both ways

    September 23, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  24. Enough

    Good move ACORN.........Certain way to prove you are corrupt and deserve to be shut down. Like a parent suing the store cause their kid was caught shop lifting.............blame someone else, instead of teaching the kid a lesson.

    September 23, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  25. mike

    This is so pathetic... like a lawsuit is going to fix the damage that has been done to ACORN's reputation? It just makes them look desperate. The American people have now seen ACORN's true colors and we are ready for them to now be completely defunded and go away like the criminals they are.

    September 23, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
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