Law Professors

Former US Atty calls activist a 'nasty little cowardly spud' in taped Tulane confrontation

A conservative activist famous for his ACORN video has posted an angry tirade by former U.S. Attorney James Letten, who deems the video maker a “nasty little cowardly spud.”

Activist James O’Keefe confronts Letten at Tulane, where Letten is an assistant dean at the law school, and offers the former prosecutor a copy of his book. Letten says his wife was terrorized when O’Keefe offered her the book at their home, then Letten addresses O’Keefe and his companions.

“Listen to me,” Letten said. “Listen to me, hobbits, okay? Listen to me. Listen to me. Pay attention to me. Listen to me. You went to my house. You terrorized my wife. You are violating federal law. You are violating state law. You’re trespassing. You’re a nasty little cowardly spud. All of you. You’re hobbits. You are less than I could ever tell you. You are scum.”

The New Orleans Times Picayune, the Daily Caller and WND-TV are among the publications reporting on the video.

Letten’s office had prosecuted O’Keefe, though Letten later recused, based on accusations the activist used false pretenses to enter the office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. O’Keefe has said he was investigating complaints that constituents calling Landrieu to complain about Obamacare couldn’t get through. O’Keefe later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the incident. O’Keefe says he discusses the prosecution in his book.

Letten isn’t interested. “You spend your life as a snail,” Letten told O’Keefe on the video. “You do weird little political things, you’re a horses a–. Stay away from my family, stay away from me, stay away from this institution. If you want to be a political, you know, extremist nut job, that’s fine, don’t break the law.”

O’Keefe’s ACORN video showed the group’s employees giving tax advice to O’Keefe and a colleague, who were posing as a prostitute and pimp. Prosecutors in New York opted not to prosecute ACORN workers; a source told one publication that an unedited version of the video showed the alleged wrongdoing was less clear cut.

A Tulane spokesperson gave the Times-Picayune this statement: “This exchange, arising from an issue related to his previous position as U.S. attorney, followed visits to Jim Letten’s home and campus office by James O’Keefe and his film crew that were intimidating and harassing to both his wife and staff. Despite the provocation of these unannounced and uninvited visits, Mr. Letten regrets losing his temper in addressing the impropriety of Mr. O’Keefe’s conduct.”

O’Keefe also released a statement referring to his claim on the video that he was wrongly prosecuted as a citizen journalist. “While in Louisiana on another investigation, I decided to approach Mr. Letten and question his conduct regarding the criminal case from 2010—a right I not only have as a citizen, but as a journalist as well,” O’Keefe said. “But this video is about much more than just Mr. Letten. With the DOJ attempting to jail journalists and the continued discussion about a selectively enforced shield law, the question of what constitutes journalism is now more important than ever.”

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