Filmmaker O’Keefe Tweets on Pending Charges

It appears that conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe is continuing to comment on his case. Raw Story and other sites are reporting that O’Keefe tweeted shortly around midnight last night that “Govt official concedes no attempt to wiretap.” In the meantime, it appears that the stunt in New Orleans may have been an effort to cut off the telephones or film their operation as opposed to wiretapping calls. I discussed this story on Hardball and Rachel Maddow.

As noted in the segment below from Countdown, the affidavit accompanying the charges was curious in two respects. First, the government was charging a higher category of trespass by alleging intent to commit a felony. However, the prosecutors failed to state what that felony was. The clear suggestion of the affidavit was that the “malicious” interference with the telephone system was to wiretap Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office. Second, if this was a conspiracy to wiretap, one would have expected a reference to electronic surveillance equipment found at the scene.

Now, O’Keefe is saying that the government is not pursuing a surveillance theory. Such a development is important and worth public attention.

If he is not accused of attempted electronic surveillance, the ten year maximum under section 1036 may be the upper limit. The affidavit appears to be referring to section 1362 which states:

Whoever … willfully or maliciously interferes in any way with the working or use of any [radio, telegraph, telephone or cable, line, station, or system, or other means of communication, operated or controlled by the United States], or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

Section 2 of that law expressed includes:

(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.

This may ultimately be the dispossession of the charges with Sections 1036 and 1362. However, there are also possible charges of conspiracy and false statements for these men as well as possible third parties.

It has also been reported that O’Keefe is under a gag order not to discuss the case. These orders can create difficulties for the defense when someone like O’Keefe is being widely accused of a wiretapping conspiracy. He has an obvious desire to rebut those allegations — as do his lawyers. Moreover, he was merely referencing a news development in a brief tweet.

Finally, a court would be on precarious ground when it says that a defendant cannot speak for himself in public. O’Keefe could raise first amendment claims if the government decides to raise the matter with the court. Nevertheless, it could be viewed as a technical violation since these orders often refer to the parties in general and not just the lawyers. One recent such controversy occurred in Texas, here, but such disputes are not uncommon in high profile cases. For another such recent case, click here.

Restrictions on statements to the press are often imposed by court rules for any criminal case. A court can then add a more detailed and demanding gag order in a given case. Reports indicate that a gag order was in place in this case.

Attorneys in some recent hig-profile cases have asked for such gag orders to be lifted to allow their client to defend himself in the public forum, here. On occasion, courts will grant such motions.

Even without a gag order, it is always a mistake for clients to directly manage the media or speak on a case. Most lawyers strictly forbid such communications absent prior legal review and supervision. While this violation is not likely to result in a serious penalty, it can bring a rebuke from the Court and undermine the relationship with the judge.

MSNBC is reporting that officials say that the men did want to interfere with the phones by shutting them off (one of the possibilities that I discussed below). In a remarkably dumb prank, they “wanted to see how her local office staff would respond if the phones were inoperative.” This was connected to their opposition to Sen. Landrieu’s position on health care. I will not try to bridge that logical gap.

O’Keefe seems to relish reckless acts. His stunt with ACORN appears to have violated state laws. Even without a surveillance conspiracy, the Landrieu stunt is still quite serious. What is interesting is that O’Keefe hardly needs to directly communicate such information given the press attention in the case.

For the story, click here.

320 thoughts on “Filmmaker O’Keefe Tweets on Pending Charges”

  1. Elaine M.,

    An Order is by the court subjecting the parties to contempt by the court for disobeying what the court has stated.

    A Gag order applies to others all persons and not necessarily parties before the court. Such as news medias. It is a prior restraint of dissemination of any information by the parties and if it is released somebody is going to Jail.

    The condition of bond in this case, although subject to the wrath of the court is generally not an order of the court unless set/ordered by the court.

    This is a magistrate setting the terms and conditions of bond and it only applies to these/this defendant.

    It is not an order by the court to the prosecutors or news media. YET.

    I would guess that the court will be having a hearing shortly. I do not think that the people with the media outlets have considered but they will do great benefit to those in Federal Custody being held in all sorts of places.

    My suspicion is that one of the reasons that they want to keep all of the detainees out of the US is because of the Noreiga decision that stated that the 4th AM has no applicability outside of the US borders and the CIA has made a hay day out of it ever since.

  2. AY–

    So…what exactly is the difference between a gag order and a judge’s instructions to parties in a legal procedure “not to disclose or discuss the matter involved in the case to the public?”

  3. Phoebe,

    I do suppose he is most upset that his name will make him suffer impecuniously. Awe gosh, I had never really paid much attention to him before now.

    I wonder if O’Keefe will turn on him for a lighter sentence? Hmm, It does make one wonder. He complained that O’Keefe was denied an Attorney for 28 hours and compared this to the whole Gitmo. I suppose that they would be happy to be released after 28 hours. Now when did Bush give them an Attorney? 2001, 02,03,04,05,06,07,08? Was this more than 28 hours?

    I guess unless you are playing for the Hometeam you have no right.

    I did notice that he had a banner on his picture that said send “9th Graders to Prison.” If he really believes that they certainly O’Keefe is Prison material.

  4. Elaine M.,

    I do not believe a gag order has actually been entered. I do think that this is a Condition of Bond and he is risking being held in contempt and remanded to the Custody of the place responsible for taking charge of Federal Prisoners.

  5. Waynester–

    “There was, as far as anyone has been able to ascertain, no gag order for Mr. O’Keefe to violate.”

    Gag order
    Definition (from
    : an order barring public disclosure or discussion (as by the involved parties or the press) of information relating to a case

    Gag Order (from
    (n) Gag Order is the order issued by a judge prohibiting the attorney and parties involved in a legal procedure not to disclose or discuss the matter involved in the case to the public, when the judge is of the opinion that such an action may prejudice or influence the outcome the trial.


    I read in an article at The Huffington Post today that the judge told O’Keefe and his alleged co-conspirators not to discuss the case. That sounds pretty close to a gag order to me.

  6. Waynester: I have deleted a couple of entries for foul language. Please avoid such language in the future on this blog.

  7. 30%er,

    I am in Shock, a Family Valued GOP Operative would use such words in Public. I am aghast, the purity that once was isn’t. Right Waynester Gangster? BeDuhGanster, WannaBedaman?

  8. “…and off topic babble?
    He of off-topic babble dares to condemn–funny. My original comment was in fact on topic. It is you that decided to use my bio section of Newsvine for ammunition in a blatantly ad hominem manner. Thanks for illustrating to all the readers your proximate quality of argumen”

    Thanks for illustrating to all the readers your quality of character. See, if you scroll up and read our first exchange you’ll find that it was not I who launched an ad hominem manner anything. I merely pointed out the fallacious nature of your condemnation of liberals from your bio.

    It was you who responded by calling me a collectivist, so apparently the ad hominem manner was yours.

    Get your facts straight.

  9. Waynester, Using the “oughts” as a characteristic of a shallow frame of cultural reference isn’t going to fly here. Several of the posters periodically retreat to the aughts to make a point, the real aughts, BCE 100 – 100 CE. They’ll hit you with a quotation from Vespasian at the slightest provocation. We loves ourselves some aughts at Turley blawg 🙂

  10. Waynester,

    You are most certainly and indeed welcome. You make a great conversation piece. Sorta like the Head on the end of a stick.

    Your right wing stuff is interesting. So is a lot of stuff, like postings that are illusory or illogical mixed with some grain of truth. Just enough to make it hard to tell the truth of which is real and which is an illusion. But you get to decide who is right.

    The next time you go to Florida, hit Winter Haven. It the summer home to PT Barnum and his majestic estate. Suckers paid for it. But then again one is born everyday.

    Duh is good. He disappeared and you are here. Bdaman got burned to, now you are here. Jacker of Threads was here temporarily, now you are here.

    The only things used against you was the truth that you put out there. Why would you be so upset?

    Attack, ensnare, devour, attack, defend, deny, and attack. What is your pleasure?

  11. …and off topic babble?
    He of off-topic babble dares to condemn–funny. My original comment was in fact on topic. It is you that decided to use my bio section of Newsvine for ammunition in a blatantly ad hominem manner. Thanks for illustrating to all the readers your proximate quality of argument. That is to say, low.

    “Here, let me fix that for you,”

    …that whole “let me fix that for you” bit is /so/ oughts. Got anything newer?

  12. “Re: thirtypercenter
    I don’t have time to respond to bs from a collectivist” -Waynester

    Here, let me fix that for you,

    “I don’t have the brainpower to respond to you so I make up excuses and toss labels so as to appear as if I had a brain”. -Waynester

    There. All better.

  13. The troll that is “duh” cannot handle the debate so you come in to just sort of bury everything in a bunch of inane one liner insults against pretty much everyone?

    Anyway thanks for letting us know you’re not a neocon.

    Would have been hard to tell otherwise.

  14. “Did I say a damn thing about any party? Is the screen moniker “thirtypercenter” intended to be indicative of your rate of reading comprehension? If so I’d say it’s a little generous.”

    lol, hey that’s funny stuff.

    So you usually just come into the ends of threads to bury the topic with a bunch of juvenile insults and off topic babble?

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