4 charged in alleged phone tamper plot

Jan. 26, 2010 at 9:30 PM
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NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- A conservative filmmaker and three others were charged Tuesday with a plot to tamper with the office phones of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., authorities said.

James O'Keefe, 25, who targeted the community activist group ACORN last year in undercover videos, was arrested in New Orleans Monday along with three other people -- identified as Joseph Basel, Robert Flanagan and Stan Dai -- The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported. FBI Special Agent Steven Rayes said they suspects were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

Citing an official close to the investigation, the newspaper said one of the four was arrested with a listening device in a car several blocks from Landrieu's office.

O'Keefe was hailed as a conservative hero for his "gotcha" video in which he and Hanna Giles, another conservative activist, posed as a pimp and prostitute setting up a prostitution ring with underage girls and approached two ACORN workers who gave them tax advice.

In an affidavit, the FBI said Flanagan and Basel entered the building Monday wearing tool belts and hardhats, identified themselves as telephone company workers and said they were there to fix the phones. A Landrieu staffer told the newspaper O'Keefe was present in the office and claimed to be "waiting for someone to arrive."

Flanagan and Basel allegedly asked for access to the main phone system, where a Government Services Administration employee asked them to show their credentials and they allegedly told the GSA worker they'd left their ID in their vehicle. The U.S. Marshal's Service arrested all four suspects a short time alter, the Times-Picayune said.

Flanagan has been identified as the son of William Flanagan, the interim U.S. for the Western District of Louisiana.

"This is a very unusual situation and somewhat unsettling for me and my staff," Landrieu said in a statement Tuesday. "The individuals responsible have been charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purposes of committing a felony. I am as interested as everyone else about their motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward."

The four suspects appeared in federal court Tuesday, where U.S. Magistrate Judge Louis Moore set bond at $10,000 bond each, the newspaper said.

J. Garrison Jordan, an attorney for Robert Flanagan, said his client had used "poor judgment."

"I don't think there was any intent or motive to commit a crime," Jordan said.

"The truth shall set me free," O'Keefe called out to reporters as he left the jail in a taxi.

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