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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Progress in Suit Against Man Who Fought ACORN

(CN) - A conservative activist who targeted ACORN, the defunct nonprofit also known as Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, must identify the recipients of his media blitz, a federal judge ruled.

James O'Keefe III and his partner, Hannah Giles, attracted nationwide attention several years ago after secretly videotaping ACORN employees allegedly advising them on how to defraud the government.

One employee, Juan Carlos Vera, claimed O'Keefe and Giles made recordings of him at his office in August 2009 even though they told him their conversation would be confidential. The footage of Vera purportedly involved the pair seeking advice on how to traffic underage girls from Mexico to work as prostitutes in the United States. Vera sued O'Keefe and Giles for violation of California's Privacy Act.

In September, a magistrate judge handling pretrial discovery of the case in San Diego ordered O'Keefe to produce video footage and other communication. The magistrate did shield certain materials, however, finding that Vera had made some overbroad requests.

U.S. District Judge M. James Lorenz upheld the decision Thursday, rejecting the objections of both Vera and O'Keefe.

"Certainly, information that addresses the claim and potential defenses at issue in the action, even tangentially, would be relevant but without a reasonable explanation for much more expansive discovery into what appears to be extraneous facts, the materials plaintiff seeks are overbroad and beyond the scope of relevancy as that term is understood," Lorenz wrote

The decision says O'Keefe does not need to disclose all the unedited recordings he ever made with ACORN employees, nor does he have to account for his expenses in traveling to California to visit Vera.

"Plaintiff has not provided a sufficient statement of why a pattern of impropriety or the context of an unalleged scheme is relevant or would lead to admissible evidence at trial," Lorenz wrote. "Such discovery would not define or clarify the issues presented in the claim but instead appears to be an attempt to find or create new causes of action."

If the late conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, or any other media entities, received payment for the videos, O'Keefe will have to disclose that information, as well, Lorenz ruled.

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