Judge upholds ruling barring the NYT from publishing Project Veritas docs seized in FBI raids

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


A New York Supreme Court judge delivered a victory for Project Veritas in ongoing litigation between the conservative media outlet and The New York Times. As reported by The Hill, Judge Charles Wood of the State Supreme Court in Westchester County on Friday issued an opinion that The Times improperly published protected communications between Project Veritas and its legal counsel that were seized during a trio of FBI raids.

Judge Wood wrote in his decision that The Times overstepped its First Amendment privileges in publishing the documents.

“The Times is perfectly free to investigate, uncover, research, interview, photograph, record, report, publish, opine, expose or ignore whatever aspects of Project Veritas its editors in their sole discretion deem newsworthy, without utilizing Project Veritas’s attorney-client privileged memoranda,” he wrote. Wood further ordered The Times to hand over physical copies of the documents and destroy any digital versions thereof.

Attorneys for Project Veritas praised the court’s decision. “Today’s ruling affirms that the New York Times’s behavior was irregular and outside the boundaries of law,” said Attorney Elizabeth Locke in a statement published in the New York Law Journal. “The court’s thoughtful and well-researched opinion is a victory for the First Amendment for all journalists and affirms the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship.”

Locke went on to accuse the newspaper of acting as “a vehicle for the prosecution of a partisan political agenda.”

The Times says it will seek a stay of the ruling and plans to file an appeal

“This ruling should raise alarms not just for advocates of press freedoms but for anyone concerned about the dangers of government overreach into what the public can and cannot know,” Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said in a statement. “In defiance of law settled in the Pentagon Papers case, this judge has barred The Times from publishing information about a prominent and influential organization that was obtained legally in the ordinary course of reporting,” he added.

Project Veritas sued The Times for libel in 2020 for publishing an article in which the newspaper claimed Project Veritas reporters regularly engaged in “deceptive” practices and “unidentified sources.”  

With the libel litigation still pending, The Times obtained and published the memos currently at issue in an article about a Justice Department investigation into Project Veritas’ role in the alleged theft of a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, President Biden’s daughter. Judge Wood previously issued a temporary order instructing The Times to cease in its dissemination of the memos which were obtained following FBI raids on the homes of Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe and two Project Veritas reporters.

As FISM previously reported, FBI agents last month descended on O’Keefe’s home in a pre-dawn raid, during which he was placed in handcuffs as agents searched his belongings and seized two of his phones. The Department of Justice ordered the directive after Project Veritas paid “tipsters” for the publishing rights to the contents of the diary which purportedly contained “explosive” allegations against the President. Project Veritas ultimately chose not to publish the contents of the diary, which it claims it obtained legally, because they could not confirm its veracity. 

According to a video statement by O’Keefe, within hours of the raids, the New York Times contacted one of the reporters requesting a comment. O’Keefe alleges that the timing of the request shows The Times had prior knowledge of the raids. Soon thereafter, The Times began publishing the documents seized by the FBI. 

Judge Wood in his decision said that The Times obtained information it published through “irregular” channels, writing: “The court finds that Project Veritas has met its burden of showing that the subject memoranda were obtained by irregular means, if not both irregular and improper means.” 

O’Keefe excoriated The Times for disseminating “misinformation” in an effort to harm Project Veritas amid the ongoing litigation. In a statement following the ruling, he said The Times is “blinded by its hatred” of Project Veritas and poses a “danger” to the freedom of the press. “The NYT editorial board characterized this as ‘dangerous,’” he wrote. “What’s ‘dangerous’ is printing the other side’s lawyer memos in an ongoing legal dispute… What’s ‘dangerous’ is the NYT acting as an ombudsman for the Department of Justice when the FBI raids my journalists’ homes and seizes our reporter notes.”