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. Ancient Texan

    This corrupt criminal organization wants to sue or have prosecuted the whistleblowers? And with the present administration, that'll probably happen and all charges against ACORN will be dismissed, like the Black Panther intimidation charges.

    September 23, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  2. Brian Matthews

    What a bunch of crap. I say it's time to disband ACORN or let the those that support it pay for it. Not with my tax dollars.

    September 23, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  3. Jim

    I hope ACORN loses.

    September 23, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  4. America Shrugged

    Good, let's investigate these conservative activists as well. They broke the law as well, engaging in entrapment and illegal taping.

    September 23, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  5. volunteer

    Now is the time to bury ACORN and all its fraudulent axctivities

    Back the twocitizens who exposed them !!!!!!!!!!!

    September 23, 2009 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  6. Tim

    Acorn tells under hidden camera how to skirt the law and they are seuing because there reputation was damaged.
    It just proves how untrustworthy they are as a political action Group.
    The old addage of do as I say not as I do applies to them.
    Also for some reason sounds like a Communist party's way of doing buisness.

    September 23, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  7. Fitz in Texas

    Hope someone will be taking up a collection for these film makers. I sure would like to donate to their cause.

    September 23, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  8. Sian Rose

    A big fat smokescreen....That's all this lawsuit amounts to. I wonder if the employees in question have been terminated or disciplined in any way.

    September 23, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  9. GA_Native

    Does the 500,000 members include the restaurants and other falsifications of voter registration from the 2008 election? This organization is as corrupt as it comes. They seek to advance a minority group at the expense of nation. I hope the federal government pulls every dime they have squandered on these liars and cheats. The two counselers belong in jail or better yet send them to El Salvador for real.

    September 23, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  10. Bill J

    I believe that consent is not required since the people doing the taping were private citizens and not agents of government! Acorn is just trying to delay defunding by congress to buy time for the WH to intervene on their behalf!

    September 23, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  11. Denna

    ACORN, don't sue the film maker. Investigate what goes on in your organization and get rid of the bad apples. It seems that ACORN needs some serious house cleaning done. If those employees had not been doing something wrong, the film maker would not have had anything to report. Tighter controls need to be put into place or the rabble in your organization will bring the entire thing down.

    September 23, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  12. Roger in CA

    Oooohhhh... That's an ill-advised move: suing the guy who catches you with your pants down, no matter how "innocent" you may "really" have been.

    September 23, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  13. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    Somehow, I don't think filming a felony in progress is actionable...

    September 23, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |

    Why didn't the filmmakers make the footage of the majority of ACORN employees who booted them out of ACORN offices?

    Other than proving that there are a couple of morons in any organization, the only thing these filmmakers proved beyond all reasonable doubt is that they – THE FILMMAKERS – are sleazy.

    September 23, 2009 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  15. Sandy

    Give it up Acorn, your a joke. On another note it doesn't surprise me since Liberals are always the victim even when they get caught with the hand in the cookie jar.

    September 23, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  16. malclave

    So... what constitutes a "private conversation" in Maryland?

    And if a TV station in Maryland does a "hidden camera" report, like I see all the time in Los Angeles (tow truck companies, auto repair shops, etc.), are those stations breaking the law?

    September 23, 2009 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  17. timbuk

    ACORN is sueing–that is incredible–the best defense is an offense, I guess.. I thought they would be spending their time "re-training" their employees. The Rabid Right was just that with ACORN–they were right...however, even a stopped watch is right twice a day!
    This organization is what every centrist and consevative fears the most–a money pit with no oversight that claims to be helping out the poor folks. It acts like a quasi-governmental organization filled with corruption and incompetence.
    We should be thanking the film makers and not vilifying them. Again, ACORN has been busy researching the law and not fixing its own house.
    I hope the government is true to its word and cuts off funding to ACORN and its many aliases.
    I part ways with my friends on the right in my belief that we need more regulaltion and oversight of these kind of oprganizations that are focused on the fleecing of America.

    September 23, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  18. Tack62

    File a law suit for getting caught at what EVERYONE knew you were doing! ACORN's list of illegal activity is fact. No more of my tax dollars to this sham of an organization. Hey CNN where was you story when they got busted on tape? As an independant, it is hard to find un biased news anywhere.

    September 23, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  19. Mark My Words

    ACORN is trying to defend it's unacceptable practices. Everyone should sue ACORN for spending our tax dollars inappropriately.

    September 23, 2009 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  20. Jason

    There not getting goverment funding anymore so they have to get there money some way!!

    September 23, 2009 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  21. Cynthia

    Wow, perhaps Acorn should have done a better job of screening their employees and montioring the activities.

    September 23, 2009 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  22. Bob in Pa

    Are they that stupid ?

    September 23, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  23. Gary

    Admitting you have a problem is the first step in fixing it...this lawsuit is indicative of the denial that the ACORN leadership has! They are wasting tax money and donated money to sue the film makers instead of fixing their problems. I don't want a single penny of tax money to go to this corrupt organization. I hope that they lose this lawsuit and get shut down once and for all. ACORN is a corrupt organization. It makes me sick!

    September 23, 2009 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  24. Oregon J

    good for them. It's not ok to violate the law, and a message needs to be sent to the neocons. A few bad apples does not mean the whole basket of apples is bad. Heck then all the republicans should be fired for the corruption and indiscretions they have committed. Hmm, maybe we should withhold federal funding for all these republicans who cheat or involved in corruption and that federal funding is their paychecks and healthcare.

    September 23, 2009 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  25. Gary

    PS – ACORN did not maintain their license to operate in Maryland and therefore has been operating illegally in Maryland as well. Shut them down!

    September 23, 2009 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
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