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.


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soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. the girl

    These people should not be taped without their consent – they should be kicked out of ANYTHING that has to do with our government! NOW!

    September 23, 2009 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  2. foxrun

    Maybe they should hire Obama to represent them. He's support of this radical and unruly group in the past, is undisputted: why not now?

    ACORN is a direct reflection of what the Democratic party has become: untrustworthy.

    September 23, 2009 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  3. Bryan

    ACORN needs to go away. This wasn't a case of one rogue employee, it seems that their whole organization is corrupt. Suing the people who exposed this isn't going to make it go away.

    September 23, 2009 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  4. Dex Houston TX

    ACORN great move....Conservatives didn't see that coming, LOL!

    September 23, 2009 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
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