Ex-judge rejects free speech defense in Project Veritas case

Mar 21, 2023, 4:06 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — The First Amendment protection for journalists should not keep prosecutors from seeing most evidence gathered in a probe of people connected to conservative group Project Veritas, a former federal judge appointed to the case said in a report Tuesday.

Barbara Jones told U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres that she recommends letting prosecutors view most of the 1,000-plus documents gathered through search warrants for a probe into how the group received a diary purported to belong to President Joe Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden.

Neither Project Veritas nor any of its staffers have been charged with a crime. The group says its activities were newsgathering and were ethical and legal.

Jones, who formerly served as a federal judge in Manhattan, acknowledged that courts have long recognized a qualified evidentiary privilege for information gathered during a journalistic investigation.

But she wrote that the privilege is not absolute and that it offers the greatest protection when the information is gathered from confidential sources.

Jones said she rejected the argument that crimes described in a search warrant were not crimes because those under investigation were protected by the First Amendment and journalistic privilege. The warrant said possible crimes include conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines, interstate transportation of stolen property and possession of stolen goods.

She said previous court cases describing protections afforded to journalistic entities do “not suggest that people are free to commit unlawful acts simply because they are journalists.”

Jones also rejected an argument that the government had acted in bad faith. She said the materials were seized with judicially authorized warrants demonstrating that investigators had probable cause that crimes were committed.

The report from Jones comes more than six months after two Florida residents pleaded guilty to charges, admitting roles in trying to sell the diary and other items stolen from Joe Biden’s daughter to Project Veritas for $40,000.

In court papers, prosecutors have said that Ashley Biden was moving out of a friend’s Delray Beach, Florida, home in spring 2020 when she stored the diary and other belongings there.

A Project Veritas staffer soon flew to Florida and shipped the items to New York as the group paid the two Florida residents $20,000 apiece, prosecutors said.

Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe has said Project Veritas ultimately could not confirm that the diary belonged to Ashley Biden. The group did not publish information from it.

Last month, O’Keefe said in a speech posted online that he has been removed as the group’s leader.

Project Veritas identifies itself as a news organization. It is best known for conducting hidden camera stings that have embarrassed news outlets, labor organizations and Democratic politicians.

Lawyers in the case did not return messages seeking comment.

United States News

FILE - Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is shown before administering the oath of office t...

Associated Press

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor paved a path for women on the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — One fall day in 2010, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor slipped into the courtroom where she worked for nearly 25 years to take in an “amazing” sight. The first — and for 12 years, the only — woman on the high court saw three women in black robes among the […]

17 minutes ago

Associated Press

US Navy plans to raise jet plane off Hawaii coral reef using inflatable cylinders

HONOLULU (AP) — The U.S. Navy plans to use inflatable cylinders to lift and roll a jet plane off a coral reef in Hawaii before removal from the ocean waters where the aircraft crashed on Nov. 20. Rear Adm. Kevin Lenox, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 3 who is leading the salvage effort, said […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Las Vegas police search for suspect after 5 homeless people are shot, killing 2

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Five homeless people were shot in Las Vegas on Friday, two of them fatally, and police were searching for a lone suspect, authorities said. The shooting occurred around 5:30 p.m. near a freeway overpass in the northeastern part of the city, according to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Mark Lourenco. […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge rejects calls to halt winter construction work on Willow oil project in Alaska during appeal

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A federal judge in Alaska on Friday rejected requests from environmental groups to halt winter construction work for the massive Willow oil project on Alaska’s North Slope while the groups’ legal fight over the drilling project wages on. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason just last month upheld the Biden administration’s […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. Frank Rocco Giustino, who skippe...

Associated Press

Lawsuits against Trump over Jan. 6 riot can move forward, appeals court rules

Lawsuits against Donald Trump over the U.S. Capitol riot can move forward, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Former Colombian military officer accused in base bombing extradited to Florida

MIAMI (AP) — A former Colombian military officer accused of injuring dozens, including three U.S. soldiers, in a bombing attack at a Colombian military base has been extradited to South Florida. A five-count indictment against Andres Fernando Medina Rodriguez, 39, was unsealed Friday in Miami federal court, according to court records. A federal grand jury […]

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.


Midwestern University

Midwestern University: innovating Arizona health care education

Midwestern University’s Glendale Campus near Loop 101 and 59th Avenue is an established leader in health care education and one of Arizona’s largest and most valuable health care resources.



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.

Ex-judge rejects free speech defense in Project Veritas case