Unreleased raw footage reviewed by AG Jerry Brown's investigation was obtained from Rightwing activists O'Keefe and Giles in exchange for immunity from prosecution
Contradicting MSM coverage, O'Keefe 'never claimed he was a pimp,' 'did not act as a journalist'...
By Brad Friedman on 4/1/2010, 10:36pm PT  

Echoing the recent report of the Kings County, NY, District Attorney who completed a five-month probe finding "no criminality" seen in video tapes secretly taken of low-level ACORN and ACORN Housing workers last year in New York, California's Attorney General has now reached a similar conclusion regarding videos recorded in three different cities in the Golden State last Summer, according to a report released today which finds the workers "committed no violation of criminal law."

While describing "highly inappropriate behavior" by some of the workers caught on secret video tapes made by Rightwing activists, CA AG Jerry Brown's report finds that "the evidence does not show that the ACORN employees in California violated state criminal laws in connection with their conversations" with activists posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend.

In a press release announcing his 28-page report [PDF] (and accompanying 55 pages of attachments and exhibits [PDF] with it), the AG's office says the publicly released videos taken in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino were "severely edited."

Brown's statement in the announcement is highly critical of Rightwing activists James O'Keefe III and Hannah Giles, who posed as a prostitute and her law school boyfriend in the videos posted on Rightwing media mogul Andrew Breitbart's "Big Government" website last year and played extensively on Fox News, as well as other non-partisan media outlets.

"The evidence illustrates that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality," says Brown in the statement. "Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor."

His report notes that the office's "investigation has involved attorneys from all three legal divisions – Criminal Law, Public Rights, and Civil Law – as well as Special Agents from the Department’s Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence" and included a review of "the unedited recordings made by O’Keefe and Giles."

In exchange for "immunity from prosecution," O'Keefe and Giles provided "the full, unedited videotapes" to Brown's office who, therefore, "did not determine if they violated California's Invasion of Privacy Act" when secretly recording the ACORN workers. Those workers, he notes in his report, may still "be able to bring a private suit against O'Keefe and Giles for recording a confidential conversation without consent."

O'Keefe, Giles, and Breitbart have previously refused to release the unedited footage of their videos publicly. Brown's report details why they likely did not wish to, as important, often exculpatory details from each encounter were not included in the edited versions, released to much partisan fanfare last year.

The unedited California videos have now been posted on the CA Attorney General's website. (They are also linked at the end of this article.) The press release also notes that the AG has unedited tapes from other cities outside of California as well. The BRAD BLOG has made a request for those videos from the office of the Attorney General.

'Severely Edited'

The description of the videos as "severely edited" also echoes the Brooklyn D.A.'s office, which was quoted as describing them as a "heavily edited splice job" when his report was released several weeks ago.

Brown's report also echoes an independent investigation [PDF] released by former MA Attorney General Scott Harshbarger early last December, but unreported in the New York Times and many others. That report was commissioned by ACORN as an external review. In it, Harshbarger found serious organizational concerns with the four-decade old community organizing group, but "no pattern of criminality" as seen in any of the highly-edited, heavily-overdubbed video tape releases.

Despite repeated official investigations finding a complete lack of criminality in any of the O'Keefe/Giles/Breitbart tapes --- other than by the filmmakers themselves, who may have broken the law in at least two different states by secretly taping workers --- ACORN recently announced that the publicity from the hoax videos had succeeded in drying up their private funding, and forced them to shutter their doors as of today.

Of the four ACORN employees O'Keefe and Giles met with in three different California cities, none "committed, solicited or conspired to commit any criminal acts," says Brown in his report. "There is no evidence that any of the ACORN employees had the intent to aid and abet such criminal conduct or agreed to join in [O'Keefe and Giles purported] illegal conduct."

The Attorney General also confirms that O'Keefe never appeared in any of the offices "dressed as a 1970s Superfly pimp," as he had been edited to appear at the beginning and end of each of the videos. Neither did O' Keefe ever claim to be a pimp to any of the workers whose good natures, AG Brown says, O'Keefe and Giles preyed upon...

Misreported 'Pimp'

"In his actual taped sessions with ACORN workers, [O'Keefe] was dressed in a shirt and tie, presented himself as a law student, and said he planned to use the prostitution proceeds to run for Congress. He never claimed he was a pimp," [emphasis added] the AG's office says.

The BRAD BLOG has been covering the media's misreporting of this story since late January, and was recently successful in forcing the New York Times to issue a partial correction to multiple stories in which they repeatedly misreported O'Keefe dressed as, or "posing as," a pimp. Though it took two months --- and several long email exchanges with both the "paper of record's" Senior Editor for Standards, Greg Brock, as well as with their Public Editor (ombudsman), Clark Hoyt --- their partial correction was finally published just last week, after ACORN had already announced they were being forced to shut down.

The paper is still standing, misleadingly, by the notion that O'Keefe "clearly represented himself as a pimp" to the ACORN workers, even though in every case he represented himself instead as Giles' law school student, or sometimes banker, boyfriend, trying to help rescue her from an abusive pimp who had tried to stalk and kill her. Scores of other media outlets have followed the Times' lead in misreporting the facts.

Brown's report notes what the NYTimes and most other media outlets have failed to report:

Although O’Keefe is dressed in stereotypical 1970s pimp garb in the opening and closing scenes of the videos released on the internet, when O’Keefe visited each of the ACORN offices, ACORN employees reported that he was actually dressed in a shirt and tie. Also, contrary to the suggestion in the edited videos, O’Keefe never stated he was a pimp.

While speaking with the various ACORN workers, Brown's report notes:

Giles continued to portray herself as an abused prostitute desperate for help and pushed for any advice. She said she wanted to save the El Salvadoran girls from being preyed upon and raped. She claimed the pimp put a hit out on her and injured her by pushing her down the stairs.

Brown goes on to explain that O'Keefe's edited video tapes from the Los Angeles ACORN office, "did not include all Giles statements regarding the abusive pimp, her tragic life, and fear for the underage girls, or [ACORN worker Lavelle] Stewart's statements that ACORN could not help."

According to the AG's review of the unedited videos, of the 4 ACORN workers O'Keefe and Giles spoke to in three different California cities:

  • One instructed them that "no bank would fund the couple based on an illegitimate prostitution business and ACORN would not get involved with an illegitimate prostitution business."
  • One, after being told that Giles had been "sold by a pimp in Miami to a pimp in Los Angeles" who was "extremely abusive" brought Giles to an office door marked "Program for Torture Victims" and told Giles "she should speak with the people working there."
  • One, after realizing she was being hoaxed, told O'Keefe and Giles "that ACORN would not approve of their business or of her giving them advice, but that she personally supported legalizing prostitution." She then went on to explain how she had murdered her husband, though both of her ex-husbands, as the San Bernardino County Sheriff's office would later report, are still very much alive. She also "told O'Keefe he resembled Princess Diana."
  • One, who "speaks limited English ... went along with the conversation in hopes of getting information from the couple that he could provide to law enforcement in the event they were telling the truth." After the couple left the office, the worker immediately telephoned his cousin who is a detective at the National City Police Department to report the matter. He later reported the incident to a fellow employee and to an ACORN board member. The matter was then reported to the San Diego Police Department's human smuggling division.

That's it. That's all. And in every case, O'Keefe withheld important details from the edited versions of the video tapes he released, and reprehensibly titled as "ACORN Child Prostitution Investigation."

Immunity from prosecution

In regard to immunity given to the Rightwing scammers, Brown states that following a request to investigate the matter by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, it was determined that his office "needed the complete, unedited video and audio recordings made by O’Keefe and Giles." The pair sought, and received, a deal for immunity from criminal prosecution before they would turn over the tapes, according to the AG's report:

O’Keefe and Giles agreed to produce the full recordings if the Attorney General agreed not to prosecute them for violations of California’s privacy laws. This Office determined that the fastest and most efficient means to comply with the Governor’s request was to agree not to prosecute.

He goes on to note that "the facts presented" in this case "strongly suggests that O’Keefe and Giles’s violated state privacy laws and provides fair warning to them and others that this type of activity can be prosecuted in California."

'O'Keefe did not act as a journalist'

In conclusion, the AG's report highlights the hit job pulled off by the three partisan activists, and takes pains to note that despite the adament claims of O'Keefe, Breitbart and other Rightwing media outlets' absurd suggestions to the contrary, O'Keefe "did not act as a journalist objectively reporting a story":

The edited O’Keefe videos released on the BigGovernment.com website portrayed ACORN as an organization infested with employees committing crimes. However, the impression of rampant illegal conduct created by the recordings at the various ACORN offices around the country is not supported by the evidence related to the videos in California. Our investigation revealed facts which were not reflected in the recordings. The San Diego employee’s answers were influenced by his limited English and intent to contact the police. The San Bernardino ACORN receptionist knew it to be a prank and made outrageous and false statements.

O’Keefe stated he was out to make a point and to damage ACORN and therefore did not act as a journalist objectively reporting a story. The video releases were heavily edited to feature only the worst or most inappropriate statements of the various ACORN employees, and to omit some of the most salient statements by O’Keefe and Giles. Each of the ACORN employees recorded in California was a low level employee whose job was to help the needy individuals who walked in the door seeking assistance. Giles and O’Keefe lied to engender compassion, but then edited their statements from the released videos. Would it have been best had each ACORN employee simply refused to deal with the couple and shown them the door when their story came out? Of course.

ACORN was not the criminal enterprise described by O’Keefe in his “Chaos for Glory” statement – it did not receive billions in federal funds and did not control elections.

In fact, ACORN had received an average of just $3.5 million in federal tax dollars over each of the last 15 years. Moreover, there is no evidence that any vote was ever cast illegally, in any election, following an improper registration by an ACORN worker. In most cases, such improper registrations were discovered by ACORN themselves and reported to authorities.

Nonetheless, the anti-poverty organization of 400,000 low- and middle-income member families in 75 cities was successfully targeted and put out of business by Republicans; the long, concerted smear campaigns intended to do little more than undercut ACORN's successful voter registration drives. Those drives had succeeded in legally registering hundreds of thousands of low- and middle-income voters, many of whom tend to vote Democratic. For that, for enfranchising Americans to participate in their own democracy, the GOP had to put them out of business.

Mission accomplished.

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Documents from the CA Attorney General...

Previously unreleased, unedited video and audio tapes...

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