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Citizen O'Keefe Update: A Plea Bargain in Phone Tampering Case?

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 29, 2010 12:45 PM

On March 26, the Associated Press reported that conservative activist James O'Keefe looks to have struck a plea deal with prosecutors in his case for allegedly planning to tamper with the phones in the New Orleans office of Senator Mary Landrieu last January. The new charges have been lowered to entering a federal building under false pretenses, a misdemeanor. O'Keefe and his cohorts initially were arrested on felony charges.

According to the AP, a bill of information, usually an indication of a plea deal, has been filed setting out the new misdemeanor charges. According to the bill of information, the activism of O'Keefe and friends in this case only extended to a plan to pretend to test the phone system. For this purpose, the FBI says O'Keefe used his cell phone to attempt to capture video of his two assistants dressed as telephone repairmen and who asked to see the phones at Landrieu's office. A forth member of the crew allegedly waited outside in a car with a listening device.

AP writes that Sean Hannity of Fox News opined that he did not believe the group broke any laws and insisted O'Keefe and Co. were using techniques commonly employed by investigative journalists. Well, perhaps ... the whole caper does have a certain Woodward and Bernstein vibe.

J. Garrison Jordan, a lawyer for one of the defendants in the case, Robert Flanagan, confirmed his client has "an agreement worked out with the government" but wouldn't speak to deals O'Keefe or any of the others may have reached with prosecutors. "I think it's a fair resolution to the charges, and I'm happy with the agreement we've worked out," he said.

The four defendants originally were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony, a crime which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Under the new charges, the maximum exposure for the phone-y journalists is six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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