A Fox News legal analyst says the ACORN employee who last week filed a lawsuit against two filmmakers who secretly recorded her has a strong case.
In a heated discussion on Fox & Friends, former prosecutor Arthur Aidala told host Gretchen Carlson that, under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal to record someone without their knowledge. He also said that because the filmmakers were there ostensibly to get financial advice, ACORN staff had a reasonable expectation of privacy that the filmmakers violated.
Asked by Carlson if Katherine Conway-Russell the ACORN employee who filed the suit, had a case, Aidala said "absolutely."
"Pennsylvania has a law. You cannot do exactly what they did," Aidala said. "I cannot come into your office ... have a secret recording of a confidential conversation with you, and then disseminate it. I am in clear violation of Pennsylvania law."
James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, who posed as a pimp and prostitute and recorded themselves receiving advice from ACORN staff last summer, are facing a civil suit in a Philadelphia courtroom over their recording of a July, 2009, meeting at the ACORN office in that city. Conway-Russell, the ACORN employee who met with O'Keefe and Giles, says she never gave them advice on any illegal matter, and asked them to leave the office when their questions became "suspicious."
"Unlike the videos [O'Keefe] has been showing on the Internet, we refused to help him and called the police and filed this report," Conway-Russell says in a video produced by ACORN (see below).
Conway-Russell says the filmmaker duo asked questions about getting help with an election campaign and buying a home, and "then the questions got strange. ... They asked about bringing girls from El Salvador and getting them papers, etc. I told them that there was nothing we could do to help them, that I didn't know anything about what they were asking. I emphasized that ACORN is a counsel agency, that we educate people on the steps of buying a home. I then told them they had to leave, that I had other things I needed to do."
Conway-Russell says that after the meeting, she contacted other ACORN offices and discovered they had also been visited by O'Keefe and Giles. One of the other employees then contacted the police, she says in the video.
"I don't know what happened in the other offices," Conway-Russell says. "But in our case, it appears Mr. O'Keefe lied to get his appointment. He was not dressed like he was on the Internet [like a pimp]. And when we got suspicious about the questions he was asking ... we called the police and filed this report."
On Fox & Friends, Aidala argued that ACORN's lawsuit was strong because it involved "a confidential conversation for both parties, because people are going in there disclosing all their financial needs, so ACORN can't talk about what they're saying."
But former defense attorney Tom Kenneth argued that ACORN offices are, in effect, public places and ACORN employees don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The difference is crucial because under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal to videotape a conversation if the person being videotaped doesn't know about it, and has a "reasonable expectation" of privacy.
This is the second lawsuit in which ACORN or its employees have alleged wrongdoing against O'Keefe and Giles. Last fall, ACORN filed a similar suit with a Maryland court over the filmmakers' recording of ACORN's Baltimore office. Maryland's laws on secret recording of conversations are similar to Pennsylvania's.
This video is from Fox News' Fox & Friends, broadcast Jan. 25, 2010.
The following video was uploaded to YouTube by ACORN, Sept. 19, 2009.