ACORN hoax victim files lawsuit against O'Keefe and Giles

Falsely portrayed as promoting teenage prostitution in the ACORN videotapes, Juan Carlos Vera is seeking damages

Published July 14, 2010 10:39PM (EDT)

Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe
Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe

One of the many victims of Andrew Breitbart’s ACORN video hoax is finally striking back in court, against pseudo-pimp James O’Keefe and pseudo-ho Hannah Giles if not Breitbart himself. Former San Diego ACORN office employee Juan Carlos Vera, who was falsely portrayed in a heavily edited videotape as conspiring with O’Keefe and Giles to traffic underage girls across the Mexican border, is suing both of the right-wing filmmakers, seeking $75,000 in damages under California’s privacy statutes.

Filed  last week in the U.S. District Court in San Diego, Vera’s brief complaint claims that O’Keefe, Giles and up to 20 unnamed parties violated his "reasonable expectation of privacy" by conspiring to secretly videotape him and then posting the tapes on the Internet without his consent, causing him to lose his job and other damages. Indeed, as the complaint notes, the "pimp and prostitute" explicitly asked Vera whether their conversation would be confidential.

The notorious tape featuring Vera -- with his friendly smile and hesitant English -- was aired repeatedly on Fox News and cited as proof of the most incendiary charge against ACORN by conservative Web impresario Breitbart: namely, that the anti-poverty organization was in fact a criminal conspiracy to promote teenage prostitution.

But as California Attorney General Jerry Brown discovered when he investigated the ACORN matter last spring, the actual meaning of the Vera tape was severely distorted by dishonest editing to suggest that he had agreed to help smuggle young girls for O’Keefe’s mythical brothel. To obtain unedited versions of the tapes from O’Keefe, Brown gave him and Giles immunity from any criminal prosecution under the state privacy statutes.

What really happened in the San Diego ACORN office, as Fox News and many other outlets neglected to report, was that immediately after O’Keefe and Giles departed, Vera called a cousin who is a detective in the National City Police Department to report the planned crime. Police detectives later confirmed Vera’s effort to local news outlets and to the California attorney general’s office. When Vera learned that O'Keefe and Giles were hoaxing him, he again called the police, who terminated their investigation.

"The evidence illustrates," said Brown when he released his report last April, "that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality. Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting-room floor." And soon that fuller truth may be weighed in the halls of justice. 

By Joe Conason

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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Acorn Andrew Breitbart California Fox News James O'keefe