Federal Judge Rejects Press Freedom Claims By Project Veritas In Ashley Biden Diary Case

Tyler Durden's Photo
by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Dec 28, 2023 - 02:45 PM

Authored by Ryan Morgan via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A federal judge in Manhattan has ruled that investigative journalism outfit Project Veritas should have to turn over documents detailing how the organization came into possession of the alleged diary of President Joe Biden's daughter, Ashley Biden.

President Joe Biden walks on the beach with daughter Ashley Biden in Rehoboth Beach, Del., on June 20, 2022. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo)

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York ruled in favor of a special master's recommendation that Project Veritas should be made to turn over all documents in its possession that detail how it came into possession of the diary in the fall of 2020. Judge Torres ruled against claims by Project Veritas that it has journalistic non-disclosure privileges under the First Amendment and thus should not be made to turn over its records.

With Judge Torres's ruling, federal prosecutors could soon take possession of more than 900 documents detailing how Project Veritas came into possession of the diary. Judge Torres ordered a government evidentiary filter team to sort out any documents not protected under attorney-client privilege and turn those documents over to government investigators by Jan. 5.

The legal battle over Ms. Biden's alleged diary began in the fall of 2021, when federal agents carried out search warrants at the homes of several Project Veritas employees, including the group's founder and then-CEO James O'Keefe. Project Veritas has asserted that federal investigators should be compelled to return records seized from the organization, arguing that the records seizure violated their First Amendment rights as a press organization.

Project Veritas had specifically argued that past legal precedents had protected news organizations from liability for publishing information, even when said information was acquired illegally by an intermediary. Judge Torres, an appointee of President Barack Obama, ruled that such precedents don't protect Project Veritas in this case because federal prosecutors are treating the press organization as an active participant in the theft of Ms. Biden's alleged diary, rather than a simple recipient of unlawfully obtained information.

"The Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects the publication of information by a 'law-abiding possessor of information,' even if the publisher received the information from a source who obtained it unlawfully," Judge Torres wrote. "Here, the Government is investigating whether [Project Veritas and its members] participated in the theft of the Victim’s journal and the other items."

Ms. Biden's alleged diary was discovered by defendants Aimee Harris and Robert Kurlander. Without naming Ms. Biden specifically, federal charging documents state "an immediate family member of a then-former government official who was a candidate for national political office" had stored the diary at a private residence in Delray Beach, Florida.

Project Veritas has contended that it received the diary through a pair of tipsters, whom they referred to as A.H. and R.K., who approached the organization. Project Veritas further asserted that the diary was not stolen, but simply abandoned by Ms. Biden and subsequently found by their tipsters.

Project Veritas had no involvement with how those two individuals acquired the diary. All of Project Veritas’s knowledge about how R.K. and A.H. came to possess the diary came from R.K. and A.H. themselves," Paul Calli, an attorney representing Project Veritas, has said of the case.

Ms. Harris and Mr. Kurlander each pleaded guilty last summer to one count of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property.

Project Veritas paid $40,000 in total for receipt of Ms. Biden's alleged diary and related materials, but the press organization ultimately opted not to release the diary or run any news stories on it. Project Veritas said it reached out to an attorney for the president's daughter and offered to return the diary, but said her attorney refused to authenticate it. The organization said it subsequently handed the diary over to law enforcement officials in Florida.

Project Veritas has not been charged in connection with the diary case. The press organization has said the ongoing federal investigation "seems undertaken not to vindicate any real interests of justice, but rather to stifle the press from investigating the President’s family."

Attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said on behalf of Project Veritas on Monday that the organization's legal representatives are considering appealing Judge Torres's ruling.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.