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. cmichael

    really? so, you don't condone the actions of your staff, but you've allowed them to join your lawsuit against the people who outed you? entrapped? so, because your people carried out business-as-usual without being told they were being filmed, this contstitutes entrapment and a need to "hold the defendants civilly and criminally responsible for their violations of Maryland laws and for the damages inflicted upon ACORN's reputation"?

    really? no, really?

    September 23, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Criminalize the accuser. Right out of the playbook. Wrong for America.

    September 23, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  3. Michel

    One ponders where they are getting the funding to file and pursue their lawsuit. Instead of correcting the under-laying problem – .their response is to file a lawsuit?

    September 23, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  4. New Yorker

    So Bertha says they don't condone the behavior of their former employees but will sue the people who exposed the criminal behavior of their former employees. Beware the ACORN; they've been exposed.

    September 23, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  5. buckwild

    "Stupid is as stupid does"-Forrest Gump.
    Stupid isn't illegal but cheating the system is. Sorry ACORN

    September 23, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  6. Bill

    Is ACORN allowed to operate in Maryland? I've read that they are not, but does anyone know? I wonder if Maryland is prosecuting ACORN for that, if true. It's a shame for the decent people who counted on ACORN – they have been betrayed. Another reason why radical liberals fail – because they are in it for themselves, not the people who could really use their help.

    September 23, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  7. Silicon Valley Man

    Good for them! Serves the amateur Borats right.

    All of the huffing and puffing from the right wing about the $3 million or so that Acorn received from the government means nothing, considering we didn't hear a peep out of them when KBR was wasting BILLIONS of dollars. Not to mention electrocuting soldiers because of their shoddy work.

    If we could find a way to generate power from all of the wind coming out of perpetually outraged right wingers, we could solve the energy problem.

    September 23, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  8. paulray

    Are you serious? They broke the law, and are racist. Investigate an d arrest them all.

    September 23, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  9. drummerjoe

    What does ACORN hope to accomplish? I heard these two "film makers" made about $3000 on the deal. It's not like they got deep pockets.

    September 23, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  10. shane

    These two kids have these guys dead to right on video breaking the law left and right and they have the guts to sue them. What a joke.

    September 23, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  11. udo4accept

    so the lying cheating stealing agency sues the whistle blowers? any judge that takes this case and does not throw it out should be thrown into a pit.

    September 23, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  12. Thomas Nepai

    This sounds like the thief who broke into a house, fell down the stairs in the dark, and sued the homeowner for not having proper lighting.

    When your caught, your caught. ACORN is caught red handed here...this shows a pattern of disregard for the laws. How come I haven't heard anyone come forward about how great ACORN is? Where are all their clients? Where are ACORN supports who are not paid to be there? This appears to be a huge sham.

    September 23, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  13. Ned

    Go figure. have someone caught redhanded and then sue what a classy move

    September 23, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  14. Thomas K. (Phoenix)

    ...which makes them look even more guilty.

    September 23, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  15. cjl

    OF COURSE THEY DID. When liberals can't face the fact that they are corrupt, they either call you a racist or they sue you. Its why we are in the state we are today.

    September 23, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  16. Todd

    I'm sorry were the Acorn workers not seeking to bilk the taxpayers out of our money?

    I would contribute to the filmakers defense fund!

    This is indefensable to use taxpayer money to steal even more under the shelter of community service.

    That Acorn would even have the nerve to file suit says it all.

    Wake up America we are being taken for a ride and we are footing the bill.

    September 23, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  17. Ken Barber

    And federal funding was stripped from this group because conservatives are evil. Sad. Fox News is probably somewhere to blame for this as well. ACORN employees went to the police and reported the activities of these conservatives and they ended up losing their jobs. Conservatives don't care. Sad. Pathetic. Those conservatives and all of Fox News should be arrested for conspiracy, treason, and criminal misleading activities.

    September 23, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  18. Charles A.

    You'll find right -wing conservative wackos all over....this is a good example.

    September 23, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  19. Debbie C.

    Sounds a lot like the pot calling the kettle black to me. If they hadn't been doing something illegal, there would have been nothing to report. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more apparent that ACORN has deviated from it'soriginal purpose and is corrupt.

    The best thing that could happen is for the organization to be dissolved. Hopefully a new program would take it's place and have better guidelines, integrity and honesty. ACORN has gone too far off the mark for the public to trust it anymore. I don't believe it can find its way clear of the dishonest actions of its employees to provide a viable and productive momentum to our democratic process.

    September 23, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  20. Mike

    What reputation? ACORN has zero reputation.....except negative.

    September 23, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  21. Bill Hammonds

    ACORN hires crooks - sounds like a very mi.nute portion got caught!! They and ACORN deserve what they got!! ACORN clearly represents what is all bad in this country - unfortunately, it spills over into high level Democratic Party politics.

    September 23, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  22. indy

    im laughing at all of the people who are just now finding out about this horrific corrupt organization, this is old news but at least now its news.

    September 23, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  23. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    Keep cracking ACORN!!! This is such a corrupt organization that needs to either be cleaned up top to bottom or just be disbanded.

    These videos prove that,and the people are doing a service in exposing the corruption. This is community service at it's best, because no one else had the nerve to even look into the practices of ACORN. And look at what they found.

    This suit will open even more of`ACORN to the light of day. what will it bring, probably more corruption.

    September 23, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  24. John

    The Inmates are running the aslum. What an embarrassment that Maryland finds the film making more important than the potential crime that could have been committed. And who knows maybe crimes have been committed by these rocket scientists. I'm tired of seeing taxpayer money going to organizations that are corrupt, and always have been corrupt.

    September 23, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  25. C Winfield

    Who's practicing 'gotcha journalism' now? Not the progressives.

    September 23, 2009 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
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