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

ACORN sues filmmakers

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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., 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 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. Ren from Baltimore

    ACORN, no one was watching the store, for much too long. The actions in these videos, "secret" or not, have disgraced the great community organizer workforce. You chewed on this long enough; I would have thought last year's voting irregularities inquisition would have perked your eyes and ears, but apparently not. Now, swallow, and don't drag us all with you.

    September 23, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  2. Kel

    What a joke, your employees were caught! Give it up. I know if they could do this to a repub group they would for sure, and then cry freedom of speech and recordings!
    Discpline your trailer trash employees acorn.

    September 23, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  3. Jamie

    A smarter move would have been to THANK the filmmakers for alerting ACORN to the presence of employees working counter to the organization's objectives. They now look like they want to suppress the misdeads of their employees.

    September 23, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  4. Bill in VT

    Obama should put them in jail

    September 23, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  5. Mike in NYC

    The co-stars were fired, now they're co-plaintiffs. That's rich.

    "Community activism" for you. What a loathsome outfit.

    September 23, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  6. jayjohn

    Acorns reputation = crimminal activities

    September 23, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  7. Debby

    Oh pleeze this organization should be shut down never mind them having the gaul to sue.

    September 23, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  8. Tom in Delaware

    Like James O'Keefe said, "Bring it on"...looking forward to the discovery process!

    And to think Obama said he never worked for them...HA.

    September 23, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  9. David from WI

    Good then the filmmakers can use the courts to open the books of ACORN.


    So very predictable and if you would notice the man when asked what he thinks of ACORN saying they would sue he said....

    OK, bring it on ...(or the equivalent)

    Does the ACORN 8 think congress needs the GOVT to investigate the current leadership?
    You betcha. (ACORN 8 are not GOP shills to all those who think its just a GOP conspiracy)

    September 23, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  10. Steve (the real one)

    Four tapes, four cities yet a suit ONLY in Baltimore? Is that because the local DA is ACORN friendly? The film makers uncovered bad and maybe illegal behavior! Whose fault is that? FOUR CITIES! Sounds like deep rooted corruption to me! Looks like ACORN is suffering a is a self infliicted injury!

    September 23, 2009 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |

    Acorn cannot handle the truth that they were caught.

    September 23, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  12. Legna

    ACORN is over. They have ruined their chance to exist. Amazed Obama ,Axelrod, and Emanuel used them into destruction.! So unfair for the folks that could have honestly used Acorn.

    September 23, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  13. Jimmy the Greek

    The filmakers should be fined $1.

    They should THEN receive a hero's reward for exposing ACORN and putting an end to millions (billions?) of $$ that would have gone to this corrupt organization!

    September 23, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  14. aware

    Our dear leader is the leader of this community organization! 🙁

    September 23, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  15. Dave

    Didn't some one once say that the best defense is a good offense. Acorn is as offensive as they come with this petty attempt to distract the focus from the culture of corruption they support in their employees.

    September 23, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  16. nurse

    Is that like someone caught killing someone getting to walk because the cop didn't read the rights ?
    These are OBAMA's people they will walk !

    September 23, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  17. jules sand-perkins

    What is ACORN going to say in court?
    "You didn't LIE for us?"
    Oh, I know–they'll say it was a racist plot to film their advising pimps and prostitutes.

    Now, liberals, write in and tell us that you know that it was a racist plot, because you've been to Dixie and seen it for yourself.

    September 23, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  18. Jenn, Philadelphia

    We're not suing them because we aren't crooks. We're suing them because they didn't ask our permission to tape us. In what world is normal? Only in America.

    September 23, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  19. Sam's Nemesis

    Sucks being caught redhanded with your lying, law-breaking,and misleading practices being exposed for what they and you are...........

    You useless bloodsuckers are the true epitomization of how Obama and the rest of his cronies think they should be able to rule this world.

    I hope this lawsuit exposes even more of your ILLEGAL policies and really puts this organization 6 feet under where it belongs.

    Say Goodnight Johnny....please print this

    September 23, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  20. bbb

    lol.. report this story, but waited a week to report the

    anyways, go ahead and sue, ACORN can be hit with a disclosure law, so they have to hand over all records, emails, phone logs, notes from meetings, donors... EVERYTHING.

    I WOULD love to see those items...

    September 23, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  21. guardo

    Fox News should cover the bill for their legal fees after the amount of mileage they got out of that footage.

    September 23, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  22. mike

    pathetic...example # 493,234 of what is screwed up about this do something wrong ... get caught ...and now blame someone else.

    September 23, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  23. Nice

    typical. this group is worthless

    September 23, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  24. Brendan O'Brien

    This is why investigative journalism is no longer an option far to costly. These journalists should be protected for their service. It's not like this video is being used as evidence in court, it was simply released to inform the public of corruption. This type of reporting is what the media should be doing. If the reporting turns out to be false and slanderous then they should be liable but not simply be doing the reporting itself.

    September 23, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  25. Rob

    That's ok ACORNY.....we're going to sue you for frauding the good American people! Haaa!

    September 23, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
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