NEW ORLEANS — A hero of conservatives who bruised the liberal group ACORN by posing as a pimp on hidden camera is now accused of orchestrating an attempt to tamper with phone lines at Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's office inside a federal building.
It's not clear what James O'Keefe, 25, and three other suspects were trying to accomplish Monday at the New Orleans office of Landrieu, who has been criticized for securing more Medicaid benefits for her state in exchange for her support on health care legislation.
Federal officials have not said why the men wanted to interfere with Landrieu's phones, whether they were successful, or even if the goal was political espionage. All four have been involved in conservative politics in the past.
O'Keefe said veritas, Latin for truth, as he left jail Tuesday with suspects Stan Dai and Joseph Basel, both 24. All declined to comment. "There will be a time for that," Dai said.
As he got into a cab outside the jail, O'Keefe said, "The truth shall set me free." His biography on a Web site where he blogs says he works at VeritasVisuals.com, though that Web site does not currently work.
The fourth suspect, Robert Flanagan, the son of Shreveport-based acting U.S. Attorney Bill Flanagan, was released earlier Tuesday. His father's office declined comment.
All four were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Only Flanagan lives in Louisiana. Basel is from Minnesota; O'Keefe, New Jersey; and Dai, the D.C-Virginia area.
Landrieu, who was in Washington at the time, said Tuesday that the plot was "unsettling" for her and her staff. She said she looked forward to the investigation to learn their motives.
Last year, O'Keefe hurt the political affiliates of ACORN, which have registered hundreds of thousands of voters in urban and other poor areas of the country. Using a hidden camera, O'Keefe, posing as a pimp and accompanied by a young woman posing as a prostitute, shot videos in ACORN offices where staffers appeared to offer illegal tax advice and to support the misuse of public funds and illegal trafficking in children. In September, Congress blocked previously approved funds from going to the group
The videos were first posted on biggovernment.com, a site run by conservative Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart has said O'Keefe — now a paid contributor to biggovernment.com — is an independent filmmaker, not an employee.
In a statement e-mailed to the Associated Press, Breitbart said: "We have no knowledge about or connection to any alleged acts and events involving James O'Keefe at Senator Mary Landrieu's office."