Project Veritas Legal Victories
More than 10 years ago, Project Veritas started as a dream to investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct in both public and private institutions to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.
Even with the most formidable opponents, the Project Veritas record stands at 7-0. In stark contrast, even veteran journalist Mike Wallace was sued multiple times at “60 Minutes” and
chose to settle more than 100 times. More recently, you may remember CNN settling a $250 million lawsuit with Covington High School students.
What continues to make Project Veritas so unique is no matter the attack, which have been baseless lies, we are setting new legal precedent and winning every lawsuit litigated. Project Veritas remains passionate about informing the public of wrongdoing and
allowing the public to make informed judgments on the issues without editorial bias while protecting constitutional rights or correcting wrongs made by state and national lawmakers.
Today, Project Veritas is pleased to report that hundreds of stories later, the organization is well-known as a dominant cause willing to expose the most corrupt leaders, shut down their organizations and deliver law-changing settlements or verdicts. To Project Veritas, it's not about having resources or manpower; it's about operating transparently under the law.
1. Defending the First Amendment: PVA vs. Massachusetts Attorney General
Project Veritas Action made First Amendment history in December 2018 when the Massachusetts law prohibiting undercover recording of public officials was ruled unconstitutional:
“[T]he Court holds that [Massachusetts law] may not
constitutionally prohibit the secret audio recording of government officials…”
The historic decision granting the right to record public officials in public using a hidden recorder is a direct result of Project Veritas Action. It should be known that Massachusetts is the only state in the country to outright ban all secret audio recordings. Eleven states have found ways to respect their concerns for both the first amendment and privacy concerns.
The Commonwealth appealed the public officials ruling, and PVA cross-appealed the court's denial of the right to record citizens when there is no expectation of privacy. Oral arguments before the First Circuit Court of Appeals were heard Jan. 8, 2020. Retired Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court David Souter requested to be one of the three judges hearing the case. A decision is pending.
Project Veritas Action Fund never ceases fighting for Americans’ constitutional rights. Individual citizens must be allowed to perform their First Amendment right to report on public and private corruption. For many citizen journalists, an undercover recording is the most effective way of delivering newsworthy facts to the public.
2. Directed Verdict: Teter vs. Project Veritas
In 2016, democratic political operatives’ dark art of orchestrating violence at Donald Trump rallies was just one example of the lengths to which they were willing to go. At one rally, an older woman, and a Democratic activist, Shirley Teter, claimed a Trump supporter had cold-cocked her at a Trump rally during his 2016 Presidential campaign. Scott Foval, a prominent Democratic activist at the time, claimed credit for orchestrating these protests.
An agent of Democracy Partners argued, and Project Veritas published this claim, Teter was one of Democracy Partners’ “bird dogs,” meaning she intended to create an incident. Teter then sued Project Veritas and Project Veritas Action.
With a gang of four high-priced, high-powered lawyers, the disabled, elderly woman waged a campaign of costly federal litigation. On the second day of the trial, at the request of the Judge, our lawyers made an oral argument for a very rare Rule 50 Directed Verdict believing the plaintiff, had not presented a credible case. The judge heard the oral arguments on the Directed Verdict Motion from both sides, and he ruled against Teter. Effectively, the judge ruled that the jury could not possibly have ruled in favor of Teter:
... if citizens and the media are handcuffed by a fear of liability, that’s detrimental to political discourse, it is detrimental to society as a whole, and it is detrimental, really, to our fundamental freedom....If I've gotten this wrong, and the Fourth Circuit says that this is not what the law is, I hesitate to think where the First Amendment is going in this country.
- United States District Court Judge Martin K. Reidinger, May 2019
This case ultimately centered on a battle between emotion and the First Amendment. To be successful, Project Veritas lawyers, Michael Montecalvo and Jamie Dean, made a sweeping defense of the First Amendment.
Project Veritas intends to execute on the court’s assessment of costs against Shirley Teter.
3. Summary Judgment: Wentz vs. Project Veritas
In June 2017, Steve Wentz, who was the president of the United Teachers of Wichita at the time he was recorded saying “I Will Kick Your F***ing Ass” while talking about a student, brought suit against Project Veritas for invasion of privacy and defamation. The lawsuit was
filed in a U.S. District Court in Florida. Throughout the video in question, Wentz admits to being physically abusive to his students and not caring about the consequences since he is the president of the union.
Wentz complained the videos and accompanying stories of how he was allegedly abusive to students were defamatory. He cited wiretapping statutes due to a Veritas journalist recording his "off the record" story while undercover.
“Wentz is unable to sufficiently identify a false statement published by defendants that plausibly supports his defamation claims.”
“…the edits do not improperly and illegally alter the meaning of Wentz’s words…”
“Notably, many of the alleged defamatory statements made by Project Veritas and O’Keefe, both in the Wentz Video and the written content, are recitations of Wentz’s own admitted actions and statements.”
“…Defendants did not commit defamatory acts against Wentz and did not illegally record conversations…
The judge ruled the videos to be authentic.
There was no reasonable expectation of privacy, the judge said.
The judge also ruled the videos were not edited out of context: “Thus, the Court will grant summary judgment in favor of Project Veritas and O'Keefe.”
Project Veritas won its Motion for Summary Judgment. Project Veritas also won a Motion for Sanctions and Fees and the judge assessed approximately $10,000 against Wentz for failure to provide truthful responses and documents during discovery. Project Veritas is executing against Wentz on the sanctions judgment.
4. Motion to Strike Granted with Prejudice: Koerber vs Project Veritas
As part of the Common Core series released in January 2016, National Geographic Cengage textbook sales representative, Kimberly Koerber, said, "the dead white guys did not create this country," and "damn the Second Amendment," along with additional controversial statements. Following the release, Koerber sued Project Veritas in Los Angeles County Court alleging, among other things, her privacy had been violated because she had been recorded without her knowledge. The court dismissed the case with prejudice.
The Court found that Koerber’s complaint had been filed past the one-year statute of limitations. However, the Court went on to decide each of Koerber’s 11 claimed causes of action against Project Veritas and found that none had any merit. The Court awarded Project Veritas about $63,000 in attorneys’ fees.
Koerber appealed the dismissal of her lawsuit, which the Appeals Court affirmed in our favor, another significant victory for us. She then petitioned the California Supreme Court, but they denied her request to hear the case. Project Veritas is seeking additional fees of $70,000 for defending against her appeals. She also appealed the initial award of costs.
5. Dismissal: Dianne Barrow vs. Project Veritas
In 2016, Dianne Barrow was featured in the first Project Veritas Common Core video series. In the video, she admits that Common Core isn’t about the educational welfare of children, but rather, money.
Houghton-Mifflin terminated Barrow at the time of the video’s release. Barrow filed suit October 24, 2017 against James O’Keefe, Project Veritas, and other Project Veritas associates in Los Angeles County Court.
In her complaint, Barrow alleged defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced Corruption Organizations Act, or RICO, California Business and Professions Code and various state tort laws. She sought general, punitive, and statuary damages, as well as an injunctive order compelling Project Veritas to take down the video from all internet sources.
Barrow filed a lawsuit based on a Racketeering statute claiming defamation. Project Veritas filed an Anti-SLAPP Motion which the court granted dismissing her lawsuit and awarding Project Veritas about $73,000. She sought, and received, protection via bankruptcy, thereby avoiding Project Veritas’ ability to collect.
6. Dismissal: Augustin Maldonaldo vs. James O'Keefe, Project Veritas
On May 20, 2015, James O’Keefe was driving on the East side of New York with some colleagues, witnessed, then recorded, Augustin Maldonado, a TSA agent drinking what appeared to be alcohol while behind the wheel.
Maldonado sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. However, the court disagreed with him and called the video a “mini-drama” and said Mr. Maldonado is an example of the ambush-style journalism made popular by Sixty Minutes and Candid Camera. The court dismissed all claims made by Maldonado, including for emotional distress and defamation, and found the video to be protected by the First Amendment as Constitutionally protected speech.
7. Contentious Arbitration Case (Confidential)
Due to confidentiality, we are not at liberty to provide any details.
1. Democracy Partners
In June of 2017, Democracy Partners and Robert Creamer filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the 2016 Project Veritas undercover investigation conducted by an undercover journalist interning at the Democracy Partners office constituted a Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Trespass, Fraudulent Misrepresentation, Unlawful Wiretapping and Civil Conspiracy.
On March 31, 2020, the court granted Project Veritas’ Motion for Summary Judgement in part, outright dismissing two critical claims, Trespass and Breach of Fiduciary Duty.
The judge determined there were fact issues associated with Fraudulent Misrepresentation, Unlawful Wiretapping and Civil Conspiracy, which leaves these issues to be decided be a jury, the trier of fact, anticipated to be in October 2020.
We look forward to the trial where the Plaintiff will no longer have the benefit of having their arguments heard in the most favorable light, but rather, they actually have to prove their claims.
In September 2017, the American Federal of Teachers, Michigan, filed a complaint and obtained a temporary restraining order against Project Veritas. The AFT attempted to prevent Project Veritas from releasing its findings from an undercover investigation into the AFT’s activities.
Relying on the First Amendment, Project Veritas convinced a federal court to overturn the restraining order as it was a prior restraint on free speech. Project Veritas went on to publish the video in May 2018.
As a result, AFT pursued litigation against Project Veritas, leading to depositions in that case.
David Hecker, the president of AFT Michigan, admitted his true intentions for starting this legal process against Project Veritas:
“To have the lawsuit in -- in any way possible stop Project Veritas from doing the kind of work that it --it does, and to, as part of that, to compensate AFT Michigan for -- for damages.”
“If the result of it was also in some way slowing down or limiting what Project Veritas does, that would have been a great outcome as well, or will be a great outcome as well.”
In July of 2018, AFT issued a Press Release attacking Project Veritas. Paul Mersino, the attorney who represents Project Veritas in this case, brought the release up in an exchange with Hecker.
The following is the exchange with Mersino and Hecker quoting the AFT press release:
Paul Mersino, Project Veritas Attorney: "A federal judge has issued a crucial ruling allowing the American Federation of Teachers to gather information on conservative hit group Project Veritas as legal and financial pressure on the embattled outfit mounts. Were you at any point in time concerned with how much legal and financial pressure was mounting on Project Veritas?"
Mark Cousens, Lawyer, AFT Michigan: Objection, relevance…
Mersino: "Did you have any discussions with anyone outside of your attorneys, others at AFT Michigan, about whether or not you could cause Project Veritas to receive financial pressures?"
David Hecker, President AFT Michigan: "Of course, it's going to cost Project Veritas money and it's fact -- right? -- but that's not -- we didn't sit down and say "let's concoct a lawsuit" so we could make them spend a lot of money."
Mersino: "And I think you mentioned earlier that if it's a side effect of it, then all the better essentially?"
Hecker: I'm no fan of Project Veritas.
In the next exchange, Hecker admitted using local and national member dues to fund attacks against Project Veritas:
Mersino: "What resources does AFT Michigan have at its disposal? Do you use member dues to help pay for this litigation?"
Mersino: "Is AFT National helping pay for the litigation?"
In another exchange, Mersino pressed Hecker on Randi Weingarten, the national president of AFT of her role:
Mersino: "Was Randi Weingarten involved in those consultations with AFT National?"
Hecker: "She would have been involved in those -- some of those discussions."
Project Veritas’ legal team subpoenaed Weingarten for her deposition. Many questions still need to be answered by AFT leaders and their conduct since the inception of this case. The trial is set for December 2020.
3. Koerber II vs. Project Veritas et al
Kimberly Koerber, who was recorded by our undercover journalists in their Common Core investigation, sued a second time. This time she based her defamation lawsuit for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Unfair Business Practices, Negligence, Defamation, Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Relations, and for Damages on a short video Project Veritas released discussing several lawsuits that had been filed against the organization, including Koerber’s original lawsuit.
In addition, to some creative drafting of her complaint, her lawyer has had a difficult time abiding by the rules of the court, wasting time and resources. Koerber and her counsel have failed to submit her documents on-time and demanded last-minute postponements of long-scheduled appearances in court.
The judge has dismissed the Emotional Distress, Negligence, and the Interference with Prospective Economic Relations claims based on Project
Veritas’ Anti-SLAPP, Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, Motion to
Strike. We continue to challenge the Defamation and Unfair Business Practices claims. The judge awarded Project Veritas roughly $70,000 for its attorneys’ fees for the Anti-SLAPP Motion so far.
4. Massachusetts Constitutional Challenge
As noted above, this matter is pending a decision before the United States First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston following the January 8, 2020 hearing.
1. NH Attorney General’s Prosecutorial Obsession with Project Veritas
Project Veritas conducted an undercover investigation in New Hampshire on Jan. 10, 2012, the day of the presidential primary. Veritas reporters present asked various election officials if they had specific names on the voter registration rolls.
Invariably, the election officials offered the Veritas reporter the ballot for that person, but the reporter made an excuse about not having an ID and left the polling place. The person whose name was inquired about was deceased, and New Hampshire’s governor had previously vetoed a bill requiring voter IDs.
The day after Project Veritas released the video of the undercover investigation of “zombie voting” in New Hampshire, probation officer Pat Hattersley and his supervisor confronted James O’Keefe at his parents’ home in New Jersey on the chance he had violated his probation. He had not.
In May of 2012, O’Keefe was tipped off an investigator with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office planned to serve him with a criminal grand jury subpoena if he gave a scheduled speech in the state. O’Keefe instead used Skype to deliver his speech.
New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Richard Head got involved after calls for prosecution of the undercover investigation. Head’s source of information was then challenged and he backed off the case. About a year later, O’Keefe confronted Head and asked him to sign his book Breakthrough. In June 2012, the New Hampshire legislature overrode the governor’s veto of the proposed voter ID
In 2016, Project Veritas again investigated voter fraud in the New Hampshire presidential primary election. Project Veritas investigators found easy ways to circumvent the New Hampshire voter ID law. In one example, staffers for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign were registering to vote using the campaign’s address.
In 2019, a Veritas undercover journalist discovered a New Hampshire resident who had voted twice in the 2018 General Election, once in New Hampshire, and once in Florida. Project Veritas released the investigation and delivered the information to the statehouse to inform the offices of the Governor and Secretary of State. After which, O’Keefe received a call asking if he would show the video to the Attorney General's representative. He complied.
O’Keefe and Project Veritas executive producer Joe Halderman met with criminal investigators Dick Tracy and Robert Freitas and showed them the video of a New Hampshire resident admitting to having voted twice in the 2018 General Election. Afterward, Tracy and Freitas handed O’Keefe and Halderman criminal subpoenas to appear before a Hillsborough County Grand Jury conducting an investigation into Project Veritas operations.
Later it was revealed, the Attorney General’s office had an open investigation stemming from the 2016 Project Veritas investigation, and its undercover recordings. After an intense intervention by Project Veritas attorneys with the Attorney General, the criminal grand jury subpoenas were withdrawn, and the state’s Attorney General adopted Project Veritas’ interpretation of the New Hampshire recording laws.
2. New York Attorney General Inquiry
In late November 2017, Project Veritas received a threatening letter from the New York Attorney General, which indicated the office had reviewed all of charitable registration forms within the state, and demanded a reply within 15 days.
California and New Jersey have also launched similar investigations at approximately the same time, suggesting it does not appear to be original staff work, but rather, a response to an undisclosed outside and well-organized outsider.
3. California Attorney General
On Dec. 28, 2017, the California Attorney General sent a notice of a correspondence audit requesting documents. He gave Project Veritas 30 days to provide thousands of records dating back four years. The letter came on the heels of the New York letter and appeared as a a concerted effort to attack Project Veritas.
Project Veritas produced thousands of pages of documents, several letters and emails from attorneys costing thousands of dollars and many staff-hours. To date, there has been no reply.
4. New Jersey Attorney General
In October 2018, we received a letter from the office of the New Jersey Attorney General demanding a meeting Dec. 4, 2018, to discuss “concerns” that Project Veritas might have “engaged in conduct that violated the state’s consumer fraud act..” and other statutes.
After updating and correcting some incomplete entries on previous annual registration forms, Project Veritas agreed to pay $3,500 to resolve this matter under a consent order.
In discussions between the attorneys it was revealed this was based on a complaint that had been “laying around the office” when they took over from the previous administration. The previous administration had left a year prior to this inquiry.
5. Lauren Windsor vs Project Veritas Action at the Ohio Elections Commission
In October 2018, Lauren Windsor, a Democracy Partners activist, filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission alleging Project Veritas Action had violated state law by embedding an undercover journalist in the campaign of Senate candidate Ted Strickland.
Project Veritas secured dismissal of the complaint because her complaint was filed after the statute of limitations, and she had no first-hand knowledge of the incident, as required by the law.