The following is a document that James O’Keefe sent to me last night and has authorized me to publish. It is O’Keefe’s version of events in New Orleans. I believe this is the first time anywhere that he has publicly given his full statement of what occurred.
The document was drafted by lawyers based on O’Keefe’s statements, and was intended to be offered as the factual basis for his plea. O’Keefe confirmed for me that this document is an accurate account of what happened.
What Really Happened in New Orleans
On January 25, 2010, Messrs. James O’Keefe, Stan Dai, Joe Basel, and Michael Flanagan (collectively “Defendants”) entered the Hale Boggs Federal Building located at 500 Poydras Street, New Orleans, Louisiana (“Hale Boggs Building”), with no intent to commit a felony, but rather an intent to engage in political speech with respect to pending national healthcare legislation (the “Healthcare Bill”). During the several days before their entry to the Hale Boggs building, Defendants discussed opportunities to engage in independent journalism and political advocacy. One of the ideas raised during those discussions was a method to test the truthfulness of Senator Landrieu’s statements as to the reason for the inability of Tea Party members and other Louisiana constituents to contact her staff on the telephone to discuss her vote on the Healthcare Bill. The Defendants were advised that this was a recent story in the news in New Orleans.
Prior to the Defendants’ arrival in New Orleans there had been picketing of the Senator’s office by Tea Party Members and others. The controversy about Senator Landrieu’s phones was described in a prior news article as follows:
“We were stunned to learn that so many phone calls to Senator Landrieu have been unanswered and met with continuous busy signals,” Perkins said. “We asked them to call their Senators. They could get through to Senator Vitter, but not Senator Landrieu.”
“Our lines have been jammed for weeks, and I apologize,” Landrieu said in interview after giving a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday.
As a result, the Defendants devised what was, in retrospect, a poorly thought out plan to test the veracity of Senator Landrieu’s statements. The plan settled upon was for two of the Defendants to dress as telephone repairmen and, wearing an audio and video camera hidden in one of the hard hats they wore as part of their disguise, enter Senator Landrieu’s office and interview her staff while a third Defendant recorded the interviews using a second audio and video camera.
The group devised a plan involving disguises because they believed that if they simply entered Senator Landrieu’s office and identified themselves as journalists they would not likely receive truthful answers. They thought it likely that Senator Landrieu’s staff would be more candid with a repairman than a reporter. Looking back, the Defendants now recognize clearly that this plan was imprudent, and produced unintended security concerns and consequences that none of the Defendants anticipated. The Defendants agree that they should have anticipated these consequences and regret that they decided to proceed in that fashion.
Upon entering the Hale Boggs Building, the Defendants presented their real drivers license identifications to security officials and were not questioned as to the purpose of their visit to the Hale Boggs Building or where in the Hale Boggs Building they were going. Before passing through security, the Defendants placed all of their equipment (including all recording and video devices) through the security x-ray machines, as requested by the Hale Boggs Building security employees.
After passing through the Hale Boggs Building security checkpoint, the Defendants proceeded to the 10th floor, where Senator Landrieu’s office is located. Senator Landrieu’s office was and is open to the public and the Defendants entered through its open door. They spoke with members of Senator Landrieu’s staff, then separately left the Senator’s office and exited the Hale Boggs Building.
A short time later, the Defendants were “detained” by Federal Marshals. They believed they would be released when the US Marshals realized that they were journalists and immediately explained to the commanding US Marshal that they were journalists investigating whether Senator Landrieu wasn’t answering her calls.
Despite truthfully explaining, in detail, to the FBI and Federal Marshals that their purpose was solely to ask questions (and record the questions and answers) of Senator Landrieu’s staff regarding recently published statements by constituents that calls to Senator Landrieu’s staff concerning her vote in favor of the pending Healthcare Bill were not being returned and about the Senator’s public statement that her office phones had been “jammed,” Defendants were charged in a criminal complaint with a felony:
by false and fraudulent pretense enter and attempt to enter real property belonging to the United States of America with the intent to commit a felony: to wit, willful and malicious[s] interference with a working and use of a telephone system operated and controlled by the United States; in violation of Title 18 United States Code Section(s) 1036(a)(1), 1362, and 2.
At approximately 8 pm, the Defendants were taken from the Federal Building to the St. Bernard Parish Jail. The Defendants remained in jail overnight and were then transported the next afternoon in red jumpsuits and hand and leg irons back to the Hale Boggs Building where they were “arraigned” before Magistrate Judge Louis Moore, Jr., who released them on personal bonds of $10,000.
O’Keefe clarified to me that he and his companions entered only the public reception area of Sen. Landrieu’s office.
O’Keefe’s attorney Michael Madigan is scheduled to appear on Fox News Sunday tomorrow morning to discuss the prosecution.
More to come later today, including a post about the First Amendment implications of the judge ordering the destruction of the footage of O’Keefe’s foray into Landrieu’s offices, and a post about New York Magazine‘s retraction of the errors I highlighted here the other day.
UPDATE: My post about the court-ordered destruction of footage of a Landrieu staffer admitting there had been no problem with the Senator’s phones, here.