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Lawyer says plan was to embarrass senator

By Associated Press
January 29, 2010

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NEW ORLEANS - Four men charged with trying to tamper with a senator’s phones - including a conservative activist known for targeting ACORN - hoped to record embarrassing hidden-camera footage to document allegations her staff was ignoring calls critical of her stance on overhauling health care, an attorney for one of the four said yesterday.

Attorney J. Garrison Jordan denied the four men were trying to disable or wiretap the phones in Senator Mary L. Landrieu’s office at a federal building in New Orleans.

“You’re dealing with kids,’’ he said. “I don’t think they thought it through that far.’’

Jordan said they hoped to get embarrassing video footage of her staff handling constituent calls.

The four accused in the scheme include James O’Keefe, who is famous for posing as a pimp and targeting ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, in hidden-camera videos.

Jordan said his client, Robert Flanagan, the 24-year-old son of a federal prosecutor in Louisiana, did not intend to break the law when he entered the office posing as a telephone worker Monday.

No matter their intentions, the four face the serious charge of entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony, which carries up to 10 years in prison. They are free on $10,000 bail.

Charged along with O’Keefe and Flanagan were Joseph Basel, 24, of Minnesota, and Stan Dai, 24, of the Washington, D.C., area. The four are due back in court Feb. 12.

Authorities said O’Keefe was using his cellphone to capture video of two of his fellow defendants in Landrieu’s office before their arrest. The two posing as telephone repairmen asked to see the phones at Landrieu’s office. The fourth is alleged to have waited outside in a car with a listening device to pick up transmissions.

O’Keefe has declined to discuss what he and the others were doing in Landrieu’s office.

Last month, protesters marched in front of Landrieu’s office in Baton Rouge to criticize her support for health care legislation and complain that they couldn’t get through on her office phones. Landrieu said at the time that her office received a high volume of calls.