U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle denied a request from Project Veritas, a conservative group that attempts to expose media bias, to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Democratic organizations that had been targeted by the group in 2016.
The lawsuit claims that Project Veritas and its founder James O’Keefe had a woman intern at the offices of the Democracy Partners consulting group under a fictitious name as a way to dig up damaging information on the group’s efforts to counter some of President Trump’s rallies before the 2016 general election.
Under the name of Angela Brandt, the woman submitted an inauthentic resume to apply for the internship and then brought video and audio devices into the consulting group’s offices, where plans were in the works to create distractions from Trump appearances.
Project Veritas released some of the videos and documents online in October 2016. They claimed these events were really about creating violence at Trump rallies. Bob Creamer, a Democratic activist affiliated with the work, resigned from his post and another, Scott Foval, was fired.
Huvelle ruled on Thursday that the suit could move forward because Creamer, Democracy Partners, and Strategic Consulting, a similar company, had argued Brandt trespassed by entering the offices after misleading them with fictitious information about her identity.
“The complaint alleges that [Allison] Maass [which is said to be the real name of the woman] obtained her job — and thus the consent to enter Democracy Partners’ office — through misrepresentation,” wrote Huvelle, an appointee of President Bill Clinton. “Under these circumstances, plaintiffs’ ‘consent’ does not bar a claim for trespass.”
Lawyers for Project Veritas disagreed and also argued that damages acquired by Creamer and the firms were not due to trespassing or trickery. Rather, they argued it was their conduct that resulted in the damages, but Huvelle said it wasn’t for her to decide what brought on the damages.
Stephen Gordon, a spokesman for Project Veritas, attempted to minimize the impact of the decision.
“Our belief is that this is a carefully crafted lawsuit which may have survived the motion to dismiss but will fail in the end,” Gordon said. “As the case proceeds, our attorneys will show the entire case is nothing more than an attempt to retaliate against Veritas for exposing Democracy Partners’ dirty political operation.”
Joseph Sandler, a lawyer who is representing Creamer and the Democratic firms, praised the judge's actions.
“We are pleased that the court has decided to let this important case to proceed and to allow our clients, who were really injured by the tactics and actions of Project Veritas, to pursue all of their claims,” Sandler said. “We look forward to proving that Project Veritas’ tactics were not merely dishonest and underhanded but violated the legal rights of the people affected — people who were doing nothing more than participating in the political process by legitimately helping candidates and causes in which they believed.”
The decision doesn’t conclude the case, but rather allows both sides to request records and receive testimonies from those who may have knowledge of the events in question.