ACORN Files Law Suit against James O'Keefe, Hannah Giles and Breitbart.com LLC In Connection With Illegal Video Taping In Baltimore
ACORN Seeks Injunction against Continued Distribution and Broadcasting as well as Compensatory and Punitive Damages
(Washington, DC) - Today, in response to recently released and distributed video and audio tape obtained by James O'Keefe, Hannah Giles and Breitbart.com LLC, ACORN has filed a law suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against further distribution along with compensatory and punitive damages.
In the video tapes, former Baltimore ACORN employees, Shera Williams and Tonja Thompson are depicted providing Defendants' O'Keefe and Giles, posing as a "pimp" and "prostitute", advice on preparing tax returns as part of an effort to buy a home. No tax returns were actually prepared. The video and audio footage was taken without the knowledge of Williams and/or Thompson and in violation of Maryland's Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code §§ 10-402(a) and 10-410, which requires two party consent to all electronic surveillance. Violation of the law is a felony, and entitles parties whose rights were violated to sue.
According to ACORN's General Counsel, Arthur Schwartz, the acts of Defendants were "clear violations of Maryland law that were intended to inflict maximum damage to the reputation of ACORN, the nation's largest grassroots organizer of low-income and minority Americans. Unfortunately they succeeded".
Bertha Lewis, ACORN's Chief Organizer, "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."
ACORN's legal team will include Andy Freeman of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein and Levy (one of the country's top civil litigators), A. Dwight Pettit, a 45 year civil rights lawyer from Baltimore, Arthur Schwartz, from Schwartz, Lichten & Bright, PC in New York, NY ,and C. Justin Brown from Baltimore, MD.
ACORN, the nation’s largest grassroots organization of low- and moderate-income families has organized chapters in dozens of cities nationwide working on neighborhood improvement campaigns. ACORN’s 500,000 member families are vocal advocates for health care reform and have worked for decades to promote homeownership for working families. The organization raised early alarms about predatory lending practices by financial institutions and has helped thousands of families avoid foreclosure across the country. ACORN successfully sued FEMA to extend housing benefits for hurricane Katrina survivors and recruited volunteers to gut and preserve thousands of homes in New Orleans. ACORN’s large-scale voter registration drives in African-American and Latino communities drew the attention of Karl Rove, who dismissed at least one U.S. Attorney for failing to prosecute the group, and rhetorical attack from Sen. McCain and Governor Palin in 2008. ACORN has helped families prepare 150,000 free tax returns and obtain $190 million in tax refunds in the last five years.