Charges have been reduced against activist filmmaker James O’Keefe and the three other men charged in the alleged Landrieu phone tampering case, the Justice Department announced today.
The four men “were charged in a one-count bill of information with entering real property of the United States under false pretenses, a misdemeanor,” the DOJ announced in a press release today. Read the bill of information here.
The four were charged back in January with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony. In the original charges, authorities alleged that the men tried to tamper with the phones at the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA).
The group made national news when two of the young men entered Landrieu’s downtown New Orleans office dressed up as telephone repairmen, with O’Keefe recording the whole thing.
O’Keefe, who made his name with his undercover ACORN videos, later claimed the purpose of the “operation” was to investigate why constituents were reportedly having a difficult time getting through on Landrieu’s phones.
It’s not clear what will happen next, but a lawyer for one of the four men said last month he was trying to resolve the case with the authorities.
Conservative media figure Andrew Breitbart, who has said he pays O’Keefe for work on BigGovernment.com, had this to say in an email when asked about the reduction in charges:*
“It’s too bad that the misreported ‘facts’ of the Landrieu case didn’t afford “MSNBC presents ‘Watergate Jr.’ the chance to reach the ratings heights of “The Ed Show’. Tweet that, @ericboehlert. #teampodestafailsagain.”
NBC’s Pete Williams is reporting that the four men will plea guilty to the reduced charge.
Here’s the full DOJ press release:
FOUR MEN CHARGED WITH MISDEMEANOR OFFENSE OF ENTERING FEDERAL PROPERTY UNDER FALSE PRETENSES
NEW ORLEANS - Joseph Basel, age 24, Stan Dai, age 24, Robert Flanagan, age 24, and James O’Keefe, age 25, were charged in a one-count bill of information with entering real property of the United States under false pretenses, a misdemeanor, announced the U. S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
According to the Bill of Information, between January 20, 2010, and January 25, 2010, Flanagan, Basel, O’Keefe, and Dai met on several occasions. During their meetings, they discussed, among other things, possible scenarios in which they would talk with members of the staff of Senator Mary Landrieu inside of her New Orleans, Louisiana office, in the Hale Boggs Federal Building, and record the interaction using audio and visual equipment. As a result of this planning, on January 25, 2010, Basel and Flanagan entered the Senator’s office dressed as telephone repairmen, said they were following up on reports of problems with the telephone system, engaged in conversation with the staff members, and pretended to test the phone system. O’Keefe, who had also entered the office, recorded the interaction between Basel, Flanagan, and the staff members.
If convicted, Flanagan, Basel, O’Keefe, and Dai each face a maximum term of six (6) months in prison and a fine of $5,000.
The United States Attorney’s Office reiterated that the Bill of Information is merely a charge and that the guilt of each defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation of this matter was conducted by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Deputy Marshals with the United States Marshal’s Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg.
* This sentence has been edited from its original form.