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Settling ACORN Lawsuit

James O'Keefe settled a lawsuit with Juan Carlos Vera in 2012. O'Keefe regrets the decision because it conflated the accusation there was something wrong with the video, which remain in the Project Veritas website. That encouraged O'Keefe's and Project Veritas' opponents to file lawsuits anticipating settlements.

The lawsuit stems from a meeting between Vera and O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, working as undercover investigators presenting themselves as interested in ACORN’s help smuggling underage prostitutes and running the prostitutes in the San Diego-area. Vera worked in ACORN’s National City, California office, just outside of San Diego.

In the video still posted on the Project Veritas website, Vera offered guidance regarding the best routes to bring in the underage females and then, after exchanging numbers with O'Keefe, called the supposed pimp and invited him to an ACORN seminar for first-time homeowners.

In exchange for immunity from prosecution, O'Keefe and Giles gave then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown all of their raw footage, and he produced a 47-page report.

The report read in part:

ACORN consisted of a tangle of separate affiliate organizations whose activities and management were confusingly intertwined. ACORN in California was disorganized and very poorly managed. It failed to recruit, train, and monitor its employees to ensure compliance with California law.

The recordings establish ACORN employees across the country were willing to discuss with O’Keefe and Giles their plan to conduct a prostitution business, and a few even made suggestions for disguising profits and avoiding detection by law enforcement agencies. The most offensive conversations occurred outside California.

Although highly inappropriate, the evidence does not show that the ACORN employees in California violated state criminal laws in connection with their conversations with O’Keefe and Giles.

O’Keefe and Giles received immunity from prosecution in exchange for providing the full, unedited videotapes. As a result, we did not determine if they violated California’s Invasion of Privacy Act when they recorded the ACORN employees. If the circumstances meet the requirements of the Act; the ACORN employees may be able to bring a private suit against O’Keefe and Giles for recording a confidential conversation without consent.

Although O'Keefe settled the lawsuit with Vera, O'Keefe regrets any pain he had caused Vera, who was fired by ACORN after the November 2009 release of their meeting. The language in the settlement agreement filed with the court rules explicitly out a reading of the settlement as an admission of guilt or wrongdoing:

It is fully understood and agreed by the Parties that this is a settlement of a disputed claim. It is in no way representative of any actual or implied admissions of liability regarding the to the recorded conversations among Vera, O'Keefe, and Giles that took place on August 18, 2009, in or near the ACORN office in National City, California and the recordings' subsequent dissemination, but is executed solely to avoid costs and risks of potential litigation.

Months before O'Keefe settled, Giles reached her settlement with Vera.

Here is how O’Keefe summed up his decision to settle the lawsuit with Vera from his
2013 book Breakthrough
:

After three years of fighting this suit, we settled for $100,000. It would have cost us five times as much to continue to fight California's dubiously constitutional Invasion of Privacy Act. This law seems designed to protect the powerful from video exposure. The beauty of video, especially as amplified by the Internet, is to allow a handful of citizen journalists working on a shoestring to out-run the most prominent news organizations in the world. When the American people saw our videos, they responded…

We had a mission at hand, and that was to save the 2012 election. It can be brutal along the way, but in the end, there is something incredibly beautiful about shoving the facts down the throat of the mainstream media and watching them gag on the truth.

Yet, as late as 2020, there are still reporters misrepresenting the lawsuit to their readers, which makes settling the lawsuit itself a lingering mistake.

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