Lawyer for hidden-camera-sting producer says prosecutors misled court, improperly prolonged gag orders.
A group that has singled out journalists and Democrats in undercover operations contends that prosecutors misled a federal court and sought unwarranted gag orders during a federal investigation of the group’s ties to the alleged theft of a diary belonging to President Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley.
In November, the FBI conducted predawn raids at the home of Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe and the homes of two other individuals who worked with the group. The agents acted with warrants that allowed them to seize phones and computers to search for evidence of trafficking in interstate property.
The raids generated controversy in some circles because Project Veritas identifies itself as a news organization and the use of search warrants against journalists and news outlets is extremely rare due to Justice Department policies and a federal law passed in 1980 to limit such investigative steps.
After the raids, U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres agreed to a request by the group to put in place a special master to review the information on the seized devices to ensure that prosecutors did not get access to emails, text messages and other records that might be subject to attorney-client privilege or other legal protections.
However, in a letter Tuesday to a federal judge overseeing aspects of the probe, Project Veritas’ attorneys said they recently learned that that for nearly a year before last November’s raids prosecutors used gag orders to keep quiet other steps taken in the diary probe, including grand jury subpoenas and court-ordered seizures of all of the emails O’Keefe and several colleagues kept in particular accounts over a three-month span in 2020.
Prosecutors obtained warrants to seize all emails from an account belonging to one unnamed person the group’s lawyers called a “Project Veritas journalist” during a period spanning more than a year from 2020 to 2021, the letter says.
In some or all of the cases, prosecutors obtained non-disclosure orders — often called gag orders — prohibiting disclosure of the fact of the searches to the users of the accounts. The letter to Torres complains that even as lawyers for Project Veritas and prosecutors were laying out their respective views about a special master to address the information seized in the November FBI raids, prosecutors had similar and perhaps identical information from the group from the earlier warrants, did not reveal that fact and continued to renew the gag orders related to those searches.