James O’Keefe was offered a ballot a few years ago in Detroit under the name Marshall Mathers, but it turns out the Project Veritas president cannot legally purchase a firearm.
Mr. O’Keefe filed a lawsuit Thursday after several gun shops turned him down, citing background checks that found him listed as a convicted felon on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System [NICS] maintained by the FBI.
“I’m on some type of federal list,” said Mr. O’Keefe in a video posted Thursday. “Apparently the FBI has erroneously put me on the NICS background check system as a convicted felon. The problem? I’m not a convicted felon. I’ve never been convicted of a felony. So I’m pretty shocked by this news.”
He said he believes the error stemmed from his “unjust prosecution” in 2010 for posing as a telephone repair worker to enter the New Orleans office of then-Sen. Mary Landrieu, part of an investigation into whether she was ignoring constituents’ phone calls.
He pleaded guilty to a Class B misdemeanor, not a felony, with a maximum sentence of six months in prison. He was sentenced to probation.
“By the way, if I had to do it over again, I would have fought the ridiculous charge and been vindicated because I did nothing wrong, and was just doing what investigative journalists have done for centuries,” said Mr. O’Keefe, who said he used his real driver’s license to enter the building.
Even if his name had been listed based on the misdemeanor conviction, he said, it should have been removed after he successfully completed his probation seven years ago.
“Notably, the FBI has not disclosed what information it is relying on to place him on its watch list,” said the complaint filed by attorney Jered Ede in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
At Outlander Survival Supply in Duanesberg, New York, Mr. O’Keefe says, “I hope it’s not retaliating against me because of my journalism,” to which an employee responds, “I’ll bet you it is, and you probably have a lawsuit on your hands.”
FBI media representative Mike Riley said in an email that the agency had no comment.
Project Veritas is known for its undercover sting operations, including a 2016 video in which Mr. O’Keefe requested and received a ballot in the name of Marshall Bruce Mathers III, better known as the rapper Eminem. He did not fill out the ballot.