Feds don’t want to return electronics and data to James O’Keefe

James O’Keefe, president of Project Veritas, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 24, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.

After asserting the need for an “ongoing” investigation, federal prosecutors on Friday resisted efforts to James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, to seek the return of electronic devices and data seized by the FBI from premises occupied by himself and several of his associates. Although attorneys for O’Keefe, his associates, and Project Veritas have argued that the government’s actions violate the First Amendment, federal prosecutors have countered that the First Amendment does not protect Project Veritas or its personnel at this point in time. the procedure.

Attorneys attached to O’Keefe and Project Veritas have proposed returning the devices and data on March 30, 2022.

“The government opposes the journalism of Project Veritas,” these attorneys wrote while demanding the return of the documents and simultaneously smearing the federal investigation as nothing more than a political vendetta. “Basing its investigation of Project Veritas and its journalists on the alleged “theft” of an abandoned newspaper belonging to Ashley Bidenthe 40-year-old daughter of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, the government launched an attack on the free press.

The March 30 request for the return of the documents referred to the so-called “low-level theft” of Ashley Biden’s diary as a bizarre target for a federal investigation and accused the government of using “anti-Mafia tactics to investigate what is, under Supreme Court precedent applicable to newsgathering, a non-crime.

To this end, the Project Veritas dossier relies heavily on Bartnicki vs. Voppera 2001 United States Supreme Court case that basically says journalists can publish material stolen by others.

Excerpt from the Veritas file in detail:

Sources who legally provided the abandoned diary to Project Veritas have always said it was found abandoned in a house that Ashley Biden was temporarily occupying. The First Amendment protects journalists who receive materials from sources even if those materials have been stolen. Under the guise of investigating this non-crime, the government violated federal law in an unprecedented use of search warrants to seize the proceeds of information-gathering work, other documentary materials, and extensive personal data from journalists James O’Keefe, Spencer Meads and Eric Cochran (“the BSA PV”). This is not just a technicality – of the forty-seven electronic devices seized in pre-dawn raids at the homes of Project Veritas reporters, only six contain data that meets PV warrants, and that data does not represent only a fraction of the others. privileged and personal information stored in these devices.

The March 30 document continued:

This general assault on a media organization should alarm anyone who believes in the First Amendment and the value of a free press. Project Veritas legally received the abandoned journal and other property, along with its newsgathering work – the journal contained information which, if true, would be newsworthy and in the public interest by any reasonable measure. given that the subject of this information was then campaigning for the highest authority in the land. office – was legitimate, ethical and prudent. More fundamentally, this news gathering is protected by the First Amendment as interpreted by Bartnicki vs. Vopper, 532 US 514 (2001). At this point, the Rules of Criminal Procedure empower the court to protect the First Amendment and curb government abuse.

The government on Friday decided to oppose requests by Project Veritas lawyers to seek the return of the equipment. Prosecutors relied heavily on the findings of a federal justice of the peace – a magistrate who, according to the federal government, “found probable grounds to believe that the premises in question and the devices therein contained evidence of federal crimes, including conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines and interstate transportation of stolen property.”

Prosecutors for the Southern District of New York further wrote that “the electronic devices retained by the government were obtained pursuant to search warrants” and that “the contents of the email accounts were also obtained pursuant to warrants.” search warrants issued by trial judges after probable cause has been found.”

Those same prosecutors went on to refer to a “special master” — a retired federal judge who helps analyze information received from a neutral perspective:

There is no doubt that the government’s investigation is ongoing, that these documents contain evidence relevant to that investigation, and that, if any prosecutions result from the investigation, these documents will be evidence. Comprised of equal parts rhetoric, speculation and inaccurate factual assertions, the motion is nothing more than a misguided attempt to end the Special Master process this Court has established and prematurely plead the good -based on previous government investigative actions. It should be denied.

According to Friday’s government filing, the FBI still has “two electronic devices obtained from the O’Keefe residence, five electronic devices obtained from the Cochran residence and four electronic devices obtained from the Meads residence.”

“Each of these devices has been found by Special Master to contain data responsive to search warrants, is currently under review by Special Master, or has not yet been accessed due to technical impediments,” they said. added prosecutors (quotes omitted). “[T]The government returned devices that were determined by the FBI to contain no data within the search warrant period or by the Special Master to contain no data meeting the search warrants.

The federal government also said that O’Keefe and Project Veritas had no legal right to assert First Amendment privileges at this stage of the proceedings. These privileges, the government asserted, “would only be triggered, if at all, by the filing of an indictment charging them as part of the investigation, and not before.”

Paul Callithe lead attorney representing O’Keefe and Project Veritas, told Law&Crime on Saturday that the government’s filing “reeks of desperation.”

Cali continued:

Here, these DOJ prosecutors and FBI agents are hiding facts, ignoring the law, and basically making stuff up. The FBI has proven itself to be nothing more than a national intelligence agency bent on undermining the First Amendment and a free press. The FBI uses the justice system to harass a media company and its reporters who are critical of the current administration and to gather “evidence” of a non-crime to build a secret dossier on American journalists. J. Edgar Hoover would be proud.

[ . . . ]

James O’Keefe and Project Veritas will continue to expose the DOJ’s lying attack on the First Amendment and a free press. Project Veritas is grateful for the support of principled organizations such as the ACLU and the Committee of Journalists for Freedom of the Press, which understand the importance of stopping and exposing the lawless actions of the DOJ and FBI.

As Law&Crime has previously reported in detail, the searches of the premises occupied by O’Keefe and his associates were part of an attempt by the DOJ to determine whether Project Veritas or its associates engaged in criminal behavior when they received what were supposed to be copies of a diary allegedly written by Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter. The well-rehearsed story was recapped by this website previously.

No charges of wrongdoing have been formally filed against O’Keefe, his associates, or Project Veritas to date, and those parties vehemently deny doing anything illegal in connection with the getaway. On the contrary, people associated with the right-wing organization say they simply agreed to be recipients of the alleged newspaper.

The March 30 Project Veritas motion and government response are both embedded below:

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.]

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