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Mar 26, 2010 5:25 PM by Melissa Canone

Update to Senator Landrieu Phone Tampering Case

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Federal prosecutors filed reduced charges
Friday against conservative activist James O'Keefe and three others
who were accused of trying to tamper with the phones in Sen. Mary
Landrieu's New Orleans office.
The new charges are contained in a bill of information, which
can only be filed with a defendant's consent and typically signals
a plea deal. The new filing charges the four with entering a
federal building under false pretenses, a misdemeanor. They had
been arrested Jan. 25 on felony charges.
O'Keefe, a videographer famous for wearing a pimp costume in a
stunt that embarrassed the ACORN community organizing group, has
said the group was trying to investigate complaints that
constituents calling Landrieu's office couldn't get through to
criticize her support of a health care reform bill.
J. Garrison Jordan, a lawyer for another defendant, Robert
Flanagan, said his client has "an agreement worked out with the
government" but wouldn't elaborate or confirm that the others also
have reached a deal with prosecutors.
"I think it's a fair resolution to the charges, and I'm happy
with the agreement we've worked out," he said.
Lawyers for the other three defendants didn't immediately return
calls. A spokesman for Landrieu said he couldn't immediately
comment, and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in New
Orleans would not comment on a possible plea deal.
Federal authorities initially accused the four of trying to
tamper with Landrieu's phones, but the new filing merely says they
planned to pretend to test the phone system.
The FBI said O'Keefe, 25, of New Jersey, used his cell phone to
try to capture video of two other men who posed as telephone
repairmen and asked to see the phones at Landrieu's office. The
fourth allegedly waited outside in a car with a listening device.
The two suspects who posed as repairmen - Joseph Basel and
Robert Flanagan, both 24 - wore white hard hats, tool belts and
fluorescent vests. One of them had a camera hidden in his helmet.
Flanagan, of New Orleans, is the son of the acting U.S. Attorney
based in Shreveport. Basel, of Minnesota, and Stan Dai, 24, of the
Washington, D.C. area, also were arrested.
The four suspects originally 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.
The new charges carry maximum sentences of six months in prison
and a $5,000 fine. A date for their next court appearance has not
been set.
In an interview on Sean Hannity's Fox News talk show after his
arrest, O'Keefe said he didn't think the group broke any laws and
insisted he was using techniques commonly employed by investigative
journalists.
Undercover videos are a staple of O'Keefe's work, most famously
when he used a hidden camera as he brought a young woman posing as
a prostitute into ACORN offices.
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now,
announced earlier this week that it is folding due to falling
revenues that the group blames on partisan attacks.

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