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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

ACORN Director Says She Was Entrapped

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - The Philadelphia office director of ACORN Housing Corp. claims filmmakers illegally recorded their conversations in now-famous videos that were disseminated illegally and were "calculated to harm and injure" her.

She claims that defendants Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe III "were there to entrap ACORN Housing employees into engaging in inappropriate counseling," after twice being told that ACORN provided advice only on mortgage matters. And she says she contacted police to complain about the defendants' behavior.

In her federal complaint, Katherine Conway-Russell says Giles and O'Keefe called the ACORN office on July 24, 2009, for an appointment to discuss election matters, but was informed that ACORN did not provide advice on running campaigns. O'Keefe then said he needed assistance on a mortgage issue, but given the context of this request, the ACORN representative declined to set up an appointment."

Undeterred, she says that "a few minutes later," Giles and O'Keefe showed up at the ACORN Housing office, and, "on the pretext that they were there for housing and mortgage advice, were seen by plaintiff Conway-Russell in her office."

"Unknown to plaintiff Conway-Russell, defendants O'Keefe and Giles had no interest in mortgage or housing issues; rather, they were there to attempt to entrap ACORN Housing employees into engaging in inappropriate counseling. In furtherance of this goal, defendants O'Keefe and Giles secretly recorded by hidden camera and microphone the entire conversation they had with plaintiff."

Conway-Russell says she told them "that she could only provide information regarding mortgage possibilities and could not assist them in any other matters."

Conway-Russell says the defendants never told her they were recording or filming their conversation, and that after they left, she "was concerned about the statements made during the interview by the defendants and, on her request, a colleague contacted the Philadelphia Police Department to make a complaint about the defendants' conduct."

Conway-Russell says she had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" during their conversation, and that afterward, the defendants disseminated their recordings "in a manner designed to injure and harm plaintiff by suggesting improper conduct on her part."

She claims the defendants violated Pennsylvania wiretap laws. She seeks punitive damages for that, and for emotional distress.

Conway-Russell is represented by David Rudovsky with Kairys Rudovsky.

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