Acorn Says It Has Sued Video Recordings' Makers

Group Claims Breach Of Md. Taping Law, May Sue Others

September 24, 2009|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

ACORN, the embattled community organizing group with employees who were captured dispensing financial advice to a young couple posing as a pimp and prostitute, says it has filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers who secretly recorded the footage in Baltimore.

In a release Wednesday evening, the national headquarters for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now announced it is seeking "an injunction against further distribution" of the video, "along with compensatory and punitive damages."

The filing could not be confirmed by a check of electronic Maryland court records.

ACORN says filmmakers James O'Keefe, 25, and Hannah Giles, 20, and distributor Breitbart.com violated Maryland's law that prohibits audio recording without the consent or knowledge of the subject. Maryland ACORN fired Shera Williams and Tonja Thompson, the two part-time employees caught on tape, Sept. 10, the day that recording was made public.

On the video, Williams and Thompson appear unfazed as they advise the supposed pimp and prostitute on how to maximize tax credits while setting up a brothel with underage sex workers from South America.

Since then, similar recordings made in four other cities have been released, prompting the U.S. Census Bureau, federal lawmakers and, on Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service, to cut ties with the organization, which was founded four decades ago in Little Rock, Ark. Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler launched an investigation this week.

ACORN's attorney, Arthur Schwartz, said the organization also plans to sue in California and, possibly, in Washington, D.C., where two other recordings were made.

Bertha Lewis, the national leader of ACORN, said in a release, "Although we do not condone what our former employees did, no matter how entrapped they were, we are also committed to our 500,000 members that we will hold the defendants civilly and criminally responsible for their violations of Maryland laws and for the damages inflicted upon ACORN's reputation."

The lawsuit was filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, ACORN said. Its legal team will include local attorneys Andy Freeman, A. Dwight Pettit, and C. Justin Brown.

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