MANHATTAN (CN) — A pair of Florida-based Trump supporters pleaded guilty on Thursday to stealing Ashley Biden’s diary and selling it to the conservative media outlet Project Veritas.
Aimee Harris, 40, of Palm Beach, Florida, and Robert Kurlander, 58, of Jupiter, Florida, were charged in New York's Southern District based on the Westchester County headquarters of Project Veritas, a conservative group known for using hidden cameras and ambush techniques in an attempt to reveal supposed liberal bias.
The criminal information against Harris and Kurlander describes how they met with “employees of an organization based in Mamaroneck, New York,” to work out the sale of the diary and additional stolen property belonging to Ashley Biden. Prosecutors say that payment amounted to $20,000 each for Harris and Kurlander.
“They sold the property to an organization in New York for $40,000 and even returned to take more of the victim’s property when asked to do so,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said on Thursday. “Harris and Kurlander sought to profit from their theft of another person’s personal property, and they now stand convicted of a federal felony as a result.”
Harris and Kurlander copped to one count each of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.
Like Project Veritas, the president's daughter and the type of property stolen is not explicitly named in the charging papers. The details of the investigation have been public for months, however, and Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe has long insisted that it did nothing illegal. Ashley Biden is the only child of the president and first lady Jill Biden.
O'Keefe said his group turned the journal over to law enforcement and did not publish information from it because it could not confirm that the diary belonged to Ashley Biden. He initially described the person who found the diary as a “tipster.”
The FBI raided O'Keefe's Mamaroneck apartment last fall, but a spokesperson for the group insisted Thursday that the organization’s news-gathering activities were “ethical and legal.”
“A journalist's lawful receipt of material later alleged to be stolen is routine, commonplace, and protected by the First Amendment,” the spokesperson told Courthouse News.
In the criminal information made public Thursday, prosecutors said that the diary belonged to a woman who resided with a friend in Delray Beach, Florida, for a few months ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Prosecutors say the woman moved out in June but got permission to leave various personal items — the diary, tax records, a digital device with family photos and a cellphone — in storage at the residence.
Harris moved in shortly thereafter, according to the information, and then reached out to Kurlander on August 19, 2020, for his assistance in selling the journal and digital storage card of family photographs.
Later that day, Kurlander texted back that he would help her "make a SHIT TON of money" from selling the Biden’s property. He then contacted Project Veritas, which asked for photos of the material and offered money for them to deliver the goods to its offices in New York.
Guy Fronstin, an attorney for Harris based in Boca Raton, declined to comment on Thursday afternoon. Fronstin previously told The New York Times that she was “fully cooperating with the investigation."
Prosecutors say that the meeting between Harris, Kurlander and Project Veritas in New York ended with the Floridians receiving instructions to retrieve more of Ashley Biden’s items from the Delray Beach property. After they did so, they turned the material over to a local Project Veritas worker who brought it to New York.
The Southern District of New York is seeking forfeiture of the proceeds of the conspiracy.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the district’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacqueline C. Kelly, Robert B. Sobelman and Mitzi S. Steiner are in charge of the prosecution.
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