Project Veritas was ordered to pay $120,000 to a Democrat consulting firm this week after a jury found the organization guilty on charges of breaking federal and Washington, D.C., wiretapping laws and fraudulent misrepresentation.
The investigative organization was sued by Democracy Partners, a Democrat consulting group, that had been the target of a sting operation by Project Veritas back in 2016, The New York Times reported. They had accused the group of breaking the law by having an undercover employee receive an internship with the group using a fake identity and making recordings of the firm.
Project Veritas plans on appealing the civil case ruling, and James O’Keefe, the group’s founder, said that the jury’s decision had major implications for journalism in America.
“The jury effectively ruled investigative journalists owe a fiduciary duty to the subjects they are investigating and that investigative journalists may not deceive the subjects they are investigating,” O’Keefe said in a statement following the ruling. “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. Project Veritas will not be intimidated.”
The jury ruled that Allison Maass, who had interned with Democracy Partners as part of Project Veritas’s investigation, had a fiduciary duty to the group that she broke by secretly recording them.
The videos recorded by Maass appeared to show Robert Creamer of Democracy Partners and another Democratic operative suggesting that they incite violence at rallies for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Creamer claimed that he lost roughly half a million dollars in contracts because of the videos, according to the NYT. He said in a statement after the jury’s ruling that he hoped it would dissuade Project Veritas from “conducting political spy operations.”
“Hopefully, the decision today will help to discourage Mr. O’Keefe and others from conducting these kind of political spy operations and publishing selectively edited, misleading videos in the future,” he said.
Paul Calli, the lawyer who defended Project Veritas, said that the videos were an example of “the finest American tradition called muckraking.”
Calli also pointed to potential First Amendment implications of the trial, saying that the legal battle was not yet over.
“The folks on my Left prefer to ignore that fact and will spike the ball and celebrate on Twitter because in this case the journalist isn’t someone they ‘like’ or agree with and instead exposed the soft white underbelly of their party. We will see what the finish line brings,” he said.