A federal court jury on Thursday awarded $120,000 in damages to Democratic consulting firms targeted by Project Veritas, a conservative group that specializes in hidden-camera video stabbing, in connection with footage shot in 2016 by an agent doing an internship. obtained using a false name and story.
The jury of four men and five women concluded that the actions of the former agent, Allison Maass, violated a fiduciary duty to the consulting firms and amounted to a fraudulent misrepresentation, according to the verdict.
Footage by Maass and other agents showing what the group believes were attempts to incite violence at rallies for then-President Donald Trump attracted widespread media attention in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign. A key figure behind the Democratic consultancies, Robert Creamer, said the companies lost the organizational contracts after the videos were released. He adamantly denied encouraging violence during so-called bracketing efforts around Trump events.
Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe refers to Maass and others who perform the stings as journalists. He swore on appeal, saying the jury’s verdict jeopardized the hidden camera work of a wide variety of journalists.
“The jury, in effect, ruled that investigative journalists owe a fiduciary duty to the subjects they investigate and that investigative reporters should not mislead the subjects they investigate,” said O’Keefe, who was named as a defendant in the lawsuit and served on the defense. . table during the test. “Journalism is on trial and Project Veritas will continue to fight for the right of every journalist to gather news, investigate and expose wrongdoing – no matter how powerful the party under investigation is. Project Veritas will not be intimidated.”
A Miami attorney representing Project Veritas, Paul Calli, argued at trial that the group’s activities were part of “the best American tradition called muckraking.”
“The race is long. The battle continues because this case raises fundamental issues with the First Amendment,” Calli said on Thursday. “The people on my left prefer to ignore that fact and will splash the ball and celebrate on Twitter because in this case the journalist is not someone they ‘like’ or agree with and instead expose the soft white underbelly of it on their part. We’ll see what the finish brings.”
Judge Paul Friedman of the U.S. District Court, who oversaw the week-long trial, can still order damages for a jury violation of wiretapping. However, the jury ruled for Project Veritas based on one allegation that Maass illegally recorded a meeting to which she was not a party.
Friedman is also still considering motions that Project Veritas and the other defendants filed at trial that the Democratic corporations and Creamer failed to prove any legal violation by the group.