Right-Wing Sting Group Must Play by Massachusetts Rules

BOSTON (CN) – Conservative provocateur James O’Keefe and his activist group will have to find another way to trick Massachusetts politicians on camera after a federal judge dismissed their attempt to get a free pass from the state’s wiretapping statute.

This still from one of four viral videos released by Project Veritas ahead of the 2016 general election shows the introduction by conservative activist James O’Keefe. (Project Veritas via Courthouse News.)

O’Keefe, who infamously caused the defunding of the liberal community-organizing group ACORN in 2009 through the use of edited hidden camera footage, wants to bring his organization, Project Veritas, to Boston to nab local politicians talking about its status as a sanctuary city.

Before his cameras could start rolling, Project Veritas sought an injunction against the Massachusetts wiretapping statute to avoid violating the law when O’Keefe tries to get politicians to talk about immigration while secretly filming.

“Project Veritas has not previously engaged in any surreptitious recording in Massachusetts, though it wants to, because of a fear that utilizing undercover techniques in Massachusetts would expose it to criminal and civil liability,” U.S. Chief District Judge Patti Saris wrote in a 13-page decision issued Wednesday.

State law requires that all parties in a recording be aware that a recording is taking place.

Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, who was named as the defendant in the case, argued that O’Keefe’s claims were not ripe because he refused to say where and when his recordings would take place, how the recordings would be made and which politicians would be targeted.

Judge Saris agreed with Conley’s reasoning and granted his motion to dismiss.

“Project Veritas’ claim that it intends to investigate and report on ‘sanctuary cities’ in Massachusetts and secretly record government officials in [an] effort to learn about their motives and concerns about immigration policy and deportation is too vague and conclusory to pass muster under the plausibility standard,” she wrote.

The judge continued, “It alleges no plans, steps, expenditure of funds, or past activities that plausibly suggest a present intent to launch a prohibited investigation. Project Veritas simply dashed off a possible investigation into sanctuary cities in Suffolk County to claim its First Amendment activities were chilled.”

Project Veritas, which amended its complaint in April when it was challenged for lack of standing, is currently weighing its options for an appeal, according to the organization’s attorney, Stephen Klein.

“It’s a very frustrating decision,” Klein said in a telephone interview. “It’s the second decision that prevents the Project Veritas Action Fund from having its day in court.  It’s certainly not in keeping with First Amendment precedence.”

Klein added that if it were not for the Massachusetts wiretapping statute, Project Veritas would have been on the ground during the recent counter protest to a so-called conservative “free speech” rally on Boston Common on Aug. 19.

“Veritas would have been there but were prevented from doing so,” he said. “The harm under the wiretapping statutes is real, and it is ongoing.”

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