- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A legal defense fund for the woman sued by ACORN for posing as a prostitute to expose abuses at the community activist group is drawing substantial public support for what promises to be a lengthy and expensive legal battle, the woman’s lawyer said Monday.

The defense fund was set up last month for Hannah Giles, a 20-year-old college student who appeared in a secretly recorded sting video with colleague James O’Keefe, who pretended to be her pimp. The pair received advice from ACORN workers in Baltimore and other cities about how to conceal their illegal activities when applying for a home loan and filing taxes.

ACORN, its federal funding in jeopardy as a result of the duo’s expose, retaliated with a lawsuit accusing them of violating Maryland law that requires two-party consent for electronic surveillance. The suit also names as a defendant the news Web site Breitbart.com that first posted the video.

Liberty Legal Institute, an organization that litigates First Amendment rights cases, stepped in to defend Ms. Giles pro bono and set up the defense fund to defray costs. Ads for the fund’s Web site - DefendHannah.com - have appeared on the news site DrudgeReport.com and other Internet sites.

The response has been impressive, said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation at Liberty Legal, though he declined to say how much money has been contributed.

“The American people are overwhelmingly supporting these two kids who over the summer did more good in terms of bringing the light of truth [to ACORN] than the established media or anyone else has in a long time,” he said.

Mr. O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart, who runs the “news portal” that aired the videos, each have their own lawyers. Mr. Breitbart has a defense fund and his site is soliciting money for a possible O’Keefe fund.

ACORN filed suit in Maryland because of the state’s strict electronic surveillance laws, though Ms. Giles and Mr. O’Keefe ran the sting in several cities. The incident produced similar results at ACORN offices in Washington, New York City and San Bernardino, Calif.

Mr. Sasser said the defendants have a strong case, including an argument that the Maryland law prohibiting recording of private conversations does not apply because the conversations at the ACORN office occurred in a quasi-public setting and in front of several witnesses.

But Andrew D. Freeman, a Baltimore lawyer representing the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in the lawsuit, said it is an open-and-shut case that the pair broke the state’s electronic surveillance law.

“They went to ACORN’s office and taped conversations. That’s all we have to prove,” he said. “They could just admit it, then we could move on to the damages.”

Mr. Freeman predicted the case would take about 18 months to litigate.

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