State's Attorney Considers Prosecuting ACORN Video Posters, NOT ACORN workers

The activist group ACORN has fired two employees of its Baltimore office who were seen on hidden-camera video giving advice to a man posing as a pimp and a woman posing as a prostitute.

Fox News broadcast excerpts Thursday from the video. The man and woman ask about buying a house and how to account on tax forms for the woman's income. An ACORN employee advises the woman to list her occupation as "performance artist."

Maryland ACORN board member Margaret Williams says in a statement that the employees "did not meet ACORN's standards of professionalism."

ACORN spokeswoman Sonja Merchant-Jones told WBAL-TV that she believes the video may have been altered to make the organization look bad.


The statement also says the video was an "attempt to smear ACORN" and that undercover teams attempted similar stunts in at least three other ACORN offices.

Williams said no tax returns were filed and no assistance was provided.

The Baltimore city state's attorney is considering prosecuting those responsible for taping the ACORN employees on charges that they violated Maryland's wiretap laws.


Baltimore, MD – September 11, 2009 – We have received inquiries from citizens and the media asking whether the Baltimore City State’s Attorneys Office would initiate a criminal investigation for acts allegedly committed at ACORN offices located in Baltimore. The only information received in reference to this alleged criminal behavior was a YouTube video. Upon review by this office, the video appears to be incomplete. In addition, the audio portion could possibly have been obtained in violation of Maryland Law, Annotated Code of Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article §10-402, which requires two party consent.

If it is determined that the audio portion now being heard on YouTube was illegally obtained, it is also illegal under Maryland Law to willfully use or willfully disclose the content of said audio. The penalty for the unlawful interception, disclosure or use of it is a felony punishable up to 5 years.

The Maryland state prosecutor's office went after Linda Tripp in the 1990s on two wiretap charges. Tripp was accused of illegally taping a phone conversation with Monica Lewinsky about her relationship with then-President Bill Clinton and disclosing the conversation to Newsweek. Prosecutors decided to drop the case when Lewinsky's testimony was suppressed.

The video was shot by film maker James O'Keefe, who posed as a pimp who said he was going to run for Congress. The video also featured a 20 year old woman who posed as a woman named "Kenya."

The video appears both on You Tube and on the Web site of Andrew Breitbart, a columnist for the Washington Times and Drudge Report.

In the video, O'Keefe and the woman tell the ACORN staff that they are smuggling teenage girls from El Salvador to work as prostitutes. The ACORN staff tells them to list the girls as dependents, on tax returns.

The ACORN staff member tells the pair to train the girls to "keep their mouths shut" about what was taking place.

Republicans have criticized ACORN for campaigning for Barack Obama. The group has also been accused of committing voter registration fraud.

ACORN conducted a massive voter registration effort last year and became a target of conservatives when some employees were accused of submitting false registration forms with names such as "Mickey Mouse."

ACORN has said only a handful of employees submitted false registration forms and did so in a bid to boost their pay.

Today, on WBAL's Shari Elliker Show, Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King called for a congressional investigation into the group, which he says received federal money to support its efforts to help the poor.

Also today, ACORN has fired two workers in their Washington office who were seen on hidden-camera footage giving loan advice to a man posing as a law school student and a woman pretending to be his prostitute girlfriend.

Fox News Channel aired parts of the video and posted it online Friday. It shows a man and woman at the group's Washington office, asking for help in buying a house for her prostitution business. The employees advise her to tell banks that she's a consultant with her own company. They also tell the supposed law student he could buy the house, but to avoid going there because of his political ambitions.

In a statement, ACORN's president of housing and executive director say there will be an internal review.

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