An employee at a Philadelphia branch of ACORN, the national community organization under fire for allegations of wrongdoing, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the two filmmakers who set off the controversy last fall with their undercover videos.
The civil lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia accuses the filmmakers, James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, of illegally recording their conversation with the worker, Katherine Conway-Russell, and then publicizing the videos, which Conway-Russell says "caused emotional distress, harm and injury."
Conway-Russell is featured in one of several videos recorded by O'Keefe and Giles, who posed as a pimp and prostitute and visited ACORN offices around the country with a hidden camera. The videos, released initially through the conservative Web site BigGovernment.com, showed ACORN employees seeming to offer to help the couple skirt tax and housing laws while setting up a brothel.
Conway-Russell, an office director with ACORN Housing Corporation since March 2008, accuses O'Keefe and Giles of visiting the Philadelphia office July 24 to "entrap ... employees into engaging in inappropriate counseling," adding that she made clear to them that she could only offer assistance with "mortgage possibilities." The lawsuit doesn't go into details of the conversation.
It's hardly the first time ACORN or its employees have responded to the controversy over its operations by suing.
The organization filed a lawsuit in Baltimore in late September accusing the filmmakers and BigGovernment.com of illegally recording conversations at a Baltimore ACORN office and then posting them online.
And in November, representatives for ACORN sued the federal government in an attempt to regain the millions of dollars in funding the community organizing group lost after Congress responded to the undercover videos by voting to block the funding.
ACORN also has faced allegations of voter fraud during the 2008 presidential election.