A jury has ordered the conservative media organization Project Veritas to pay $120,000 after finding it liable for wiretapping and misrepresentation following a yearslong court battle over the outlet’s undercover operation targeting a Democratic consulting firm.
The 2017 lawsuit from Democracy Partners, its founder Robert Creamer and Strategic Consulting Group, a member of Democracy Partners, alleged that Daniel Sandini, an employee of Project Veritas, met with Creamer in July 2016, identifying himself as “Charles Roth,” a potential donor to a liberal advocacy group.
Sandini told him that he has a niece named “Angela Brandt” who wanted to volunteer for Democratic candidates or organizations, according to the suit.
Democracy Partners eventually chose Brandt to be an intern but later learned after the internship ended that her real name is Allison Maass and she was an employee of Project Veritas, according to the complaint. The firm argued that Maass repeatedly lied to Creamer about her identity and background and her intent in wanting the internship.
Maass carried a concealed camera and an audio recording device to spy on Democracy Partners and gain information for Project Veritas to use to embarrass the firm and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according to the complaint.
Project Veritas then released four videos based on conversations Maass had with Creamer and other Democracy Partners staff that the plaintiffs alleged were “heavily edited” to cause viewers to reach false conclusions about the firm and Clinton.
The firm said it lost clients as a result of the videos, in which Project Veritas alleged Democracy Partners wanted to incite violence to occur at then-candidate Donald Trump’s rallies.
The jury ruled that Maass’s primary purpose in using hidden camera recordings was to “commit a breach of fiduciary duty” and that the defendants committed fraudulent misrepresentation against Strategic Consulting Group.
The $120,000 is for the misrepresentation. The judge will determine damages for the wiretapping.
Project Veritas has been known for placing employees undercover in media organizations and liberal-leaning groups. It has faced criticism for its tactics in the past.
Creamer said in a statement after the ruling that he hopes it will discourage James O’Keefe, the founder of Project Veritas, and others from conducting “these kinds of political spy operations — and publishing selectively edited, misleading videos in the future.”
Project Veritas announced its intention to appeal the ruling after the decision came out.
O’Keefe said that the jury effectively ruled that investigative journalists owe a fiduciary duty to those they are investigating and that they cannot deceive their subjects.
“Journalism is on trial, and Project Veritas will continue to fight for every journalist’s right to news gather, investigate, and expose wrongdoing — regardless of how powerful the investigated party may be,” he said. “Project Veritas will not be intimidated.”
The organization said it has continually refused to settle the case out of court because it did not do anything wrong. The jury did rule in favor of Project Veritas on one claim that alleged Maass committed wiretapping in recording oral communications, as she was a participant in those conversations.