(New York) — The founder of the video-video investigative group Project Veritas, James O’Keefe, spent months searching for people willing to pose as the boyfriend and wife of a lawyer involved in a pornographic video case in Los Angeles.
Eventually he targeted a member of the Department of Homeland Security who, during a recorded conversation, told one of the couple that he was investigating the lawyer for the group for trying to smuggle a cell phone into his home.
That he did, concluding he would cause “a tremendous amount of distress” to the lawyer, is one of several things the government learned about O’Keefe, who was in court here on Friday as a first witness in a criminal trial against him and three others.
At his initial court appearance last year, O’Keefe was arrested on misdemeanor charges. They were dismissed after he spent four days at Los Angeles Airport to remove himself from the plane he boarded on a layover, but the episode prompted an FBI interview and FBI documents described O’Keefe’s focus as “integrity investigators” and one who “can be under investigation and be caught red-handed by many without knowing it.”
More than a year and a half later, as he stepped on the witness stand, O’Keefe acknowledged for the first time that he was convicted of two misdemeanor campaign finance violations in 2012 and did not contest that outcome. He also acknowledged that he had not cooperated fully with prosecutors in making his case, suggesting that he had failed to put together the support documents that would give him a defense in Los Angeles.
The girlfriend, Melissa Hoskins, 33, pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to commit a crime, admitting she used a phony identity to try to get her boyfriend, John Case, to put his home under surveillance in hopes of finding him as part of the obscenity case. Under California law, Hoskins was facing up to three years in prison.
Using a 15-minute video, Case and Hoskins planted a hidden camera inside Case’s bedroom, where they recorded sexual acts.
The prosecutor, State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, said that O’Keefe was so desperate for people to pose as his fake couple that he used pseudonyms and pretended to be an attorney, Adam Thompson, to find one of those people, and O’Keefe recruited Case’s girlfriend to get his boyfriend to spy on him.
“James O’Keefe is a despicable person. He’s a liar,” said state Sen. Ted Lieu, who is representing Case in the obscenity case.
O’Keefe testified that he continued to pursue Hoskins, who at first said she was going to lose her job because of the videos. Eventually she quit and he suspected that government officials were investigating her as a confidential informant for Project Veritas. That was the reason O’Keefe told Hoskins to get her boyfriend to spy on Case, he said.
O’Keefe said his intention was not to wiretap anyone, as the government alleged. The videos are to be a part of the government’s case, but O’Keefe and two other defendants argue that other people should have been used instead.
Hoskins’ lawyer and the two other defendants in the case are not charged with any crimes. A former U.S. Marshal and his partner went on trial with the four in February.
The government’s case largely relies on video and audio from the videos that is attached to the indictment. But after analyzing his electronic devices, O’Keefe noted that he had a video and audio recording of a later meeting with two undercover Department of Homeland Security agents — in his own home, not at an airport, he said.
The government investigators spent hours on the tapes with O’Keefe to learn whether Case was “using a kid, recording a child,” which is a federal crime. O’Keefe said he refused to answer questions about the matter to help the government.
O’Keefe’s lawyer, James M. White, said that his client had cooperated fully and showed up to court in Los Angeles, despite being instructed not to.