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By Alex Ebert
Project Veritas can’t be prevented from releasing undercover video of Michigan union employees, a federal judge ruled for the second time in six months. The provocative conservative media company says it will release the video May 9.
Judge Linda Parker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied AFT Michigan’s second motion to block release of video footage allegedly taken by an intern the union says was illegally planted in their ranks by Project Veritas. Parker’s May 8 order relied on First Amendment protections against prior restraint.
Parker said promises by Project Veritas’ president and founder, James O’Keefe, that he’ll release footage don’t allow the court to prohibit disclosure because “allegedly improper conduct in obtaining the information is insufficient to justify imposing a prior restraint.” The union also didn’t show its commercial arguments—trade secrets and duty of loyalty—"are more fundamental than Defendants’ First Amendment right,” she said in the order.
Project Veritas heralded the decision as vindication and proof the U.S. Constitution protects its undercover recording practices, which have received intense criticism and acclaim. “We are pleased to see this victory both for our client as well as for the First Amendment and everyone’s freedom of speech,” said Paul Mersino, Project Veritas attorney and shareholder of Detroit-based Butzel Long.
Last week, Project Veritas released an undercover video of a New Jersey Education Association representative seemingly admitting that a teacher had sex with an underage student and wasn’t prosecuted. That led to the suspension of two association employees and calls from Gov. Phil Murphy (D) for legislative hearings on the matter, according to NJ.com. Project Veritas promises to release similar undercover videos from across the country in the coming weeks.
However, Project Veritas’ practices also have come under ethical scrutiny. The Washington Post reported earlier this year that Project Veritas sent people posing as journalists to have candid conversations with and obtain information from Post reporters in an effort to undermine the newspaper’s credibility. A Project Veritas employee also approached the newspaper with false sexual harassment claims against Roy Moore, at the time an Alabama Senate candidate, as part of the operation.
AFT Michigan didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The court has yet to rule on the union’s claims that Project Veritas trespassed and broke state privacy, trade secret, and duty-of-loyalty laws.
The case is: AFT Michigan v. Project Veritas, E.D. Mich., No. 4:17-cv-13292, Order denying temporary injunction 5/8/18.
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