Judge bars Project Veritas from using info gained illegally from Michigan teacher's union

WAYNE COUNTY, MICH. - A Wayne County judge on Sept. 29 issued a temporary restraining order against a controversial organization – Project Veritas – that a lawsuit alleges used an operative to infiltrate the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan and obtain information illegally.

The AFT Michigan, a statewide union for teachers and other school employees, filed a lawsuit this week. The temporary restraining order was filed Friday afternoon.

The lawsuit was filed against the organization and Marisa Jorge. It claims that Jorge – using the name Marissa Perez – is an operative of the organization and obtained an internship with AFT Michigan, claiming to be a University of Michigan student.

"This action seeks to prevent the defendants from using or publishing information which was obtained in violation of Michigan law," the lawsuit says.

Project Veritas is described by USA Today as a political group founded by the conservative provocateur James O’Keefe. The group is known for using secret identities and hidden cameras to target liberal organizations.

A spokesman for the group declined comment on Sept. 29.

"At this time, neither James O’Keefe nor Project Veritas have been served with any court action from Michigan," Stephen Gordon, communications director for the organization, said in an email Friday night. "We also do not comment about ongoing investigations, real or imagined."

Wayne County Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Oct. 10.

Sullivan said in his ruling that it appears the defendants "have secured access to private, confidential and proprietary information."

"It appears to the court that the defendants intend to publish this information which is confidential and proprietary and taken without authority or consent," Sullivan said in the ruling.

The publication of "private, confidential and proprietary information will result in an irreparable injury to plaintiff because information released to the public cannot be recalled or the privacy of the information restored."

The lawsuit says that Jorge began an internship with AFT Michigan in May and was assigned to various projects. The suit claims she "showed an interest in charter schools and in instances of educators who had supposedly engaged in sexting with students; there were no such instances."

She sought and was given access to "a substantial amount of confidential and proprietary information including databases, confidential conferences and the status of grievance," the lawsuit said.

She also was "repeatedly seen alone," in the offices of AFT Michigan staff, sitting alone at their computer terminals. "Jorge made false statements regarding her purpose when asked why she was so engaged," the suit alleges.

The lawsuit says Jorge and the organization violated Michigan laws, including a law that forbids eavesdropping, secret recordings of others and the use of devices to record others without their knowledge or consent; a law that forbids the trespass on property under the control of another for the purpose of eavesdropping; and a law that forbids the disclosure of information obtained in violation of those laws.

Randi Weingarten, president of the national American Federation of Teachers, said in a news release that O'Keefe and his operatives "will stop at nothing to smear their ideological opponents – deception, distortion and dirty tactics – all to advance a political agenda that undermines public school students, teachers and families."

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© 2017, Detroit Free Press


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