Teabugger Joe Basel sentenced in phony phone repairman gambit

From U of M-Morris to <a href="" target="_blank">Louisiana Watergate</a>

From U of M-Morris to Louisiana Watergate

That's it? Four teabuggers mistaking themselves for crusading journalists fake their way in to a U.S. senator's office to mess with her phones and they get off with a wrist slap?

That's the way they roll down in New Orleans, evidently. Magistrate Judge Daniel Knowles III sentenced Minnesotan Joe Basel and chums Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan each to two years probation, a fine of $1,500 and 75 hours of community service.

Ringleader James O'Keefe got three years of probation, a fine of $1,500 and 100 hours of community service.

Basel & Co. claimed they were performing a form of stunt journalism to expose Sen. Mary Landrieu for dodging constituents' calls.

Busted by the FBI before they could do any harm, they became the darlings of right-wing media, territory already familiar to O'Keefe for a series of hit jobs on the community organizing group ACORN.

O'Keefe admitted in court that, "I should have used other means."

Here's the DOJ release:

Department of Justice Press Release

For Immediate Release May 26, 2010 United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of Louisiana Contact: (504) 680-3000

Four Men Plead Guilty to Entering Federal Property Under False Pretenses Entered Senator Mary Landrieu's Office to Secretly Record Office Staff Conversations

NEW ORLEANS--Joseph Basel, 24; Stan Dai, 25; Robert Flanagan, 24; and James O'Keefe, 25, pleaded guilty today in front of U. S. Magistrate Judge Daniel E. Knowles, III, to one-count of entering federal property under false pretenses, announced the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. As a result of their conviction, Basel, Dai and Flanagan were each ordered to pay a $1,500 fine, placed on two years probation and serve 75 hours of community service within the first year of probation; O'Keefe was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine, placed on three years probation and serve 100 hours of community service within the first year of probation.

According to court documents, the four men met in New Orleans on Jan. 20, 2010, to discuss various topics, including possible scenarios to engage the staff of Senator Mary Landrieu in her office inside the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans and to record the interactions. On Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010, O'Keefe called Flanagan and invited him to participate in the plan, which Flanagan accepted. The next day, Basel, Dai, Flanagan and O'Keefe met, discussed the disguises they would wear, and practiced how they would interact with Senator Landrieu's staff and record the interactions.

Also according to court documents, at approximately 10:00 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 25, 2010, Basel, Flanagan and O'Keefe met in an office near the Hale Boggs Federal Building to finalize their plan, check the recording devices and mount a camera in one of the disguises. During this meeting, O'Keefe explained how the recording devices worked and instructed Basel and Flanagan how to position themselves once inside the Senator's office.

At approximately 11:00 a.m., Basel, Flanagan and O'Keefe entered the federal building and passed through the security screening. Their purpose was to orchestrate a conversation about phone calls to the Senator's staff and capture the resulting conversation on video. Dai remained outside to provide support. Basel and Flanagan were each dressed like telephone repairmen, wearing blue denim pants, a blue work shirt, a fluorescent green vest, a tool belt and a white hard hat. One of the hats contained a video recording device installed on the brim.

O'Keefe entered Senator Landrieu's office first and positioned a digital video recorder made to look like a cellular telephone in his hand to record the interaction. He told the staff that he was waiting for a friend. He recorded the subsequent interaction.

Basel and Flanagan entered the office soon thereafter and told the Senator's staff that they were telephone repairmen who were following up on reports of problems with the telephone system. A staff member said that there were no problems with the phone system, and Basel then asked the staff member for permission to test the phone. Basel then walked behind a staff member's desk, lifted the handset from the cradle, questioned whether there was a dial tone and handled the receiver. Basel and Flanagan each pretended to call the office phone with their own cellular phones, and they said the calls would not go through. O'Keefe also interjected and said he had previously placed a call to the office that would not go through.

Basel then told a staff member that he and Flanagan needed to perform repair work on the main phone system, and he asked that they be taken to the "central box." The staff member directed them to the office of the General Services Administration (GSA), and Basel and Flanagan followed the staff member to GSA's office inside the Hale Boggs Federal Building. Upon meeting a GSA employee, Basel and Flanagan again said they were telephone repairmen, and Basel again asked to be taken to the phone system's "central box."

The GSA employee asked Basel and Flanagan if they had a work order or credentials, and they responded that they had left both their work order and credentials in their vehicle, parked just outside of the building. The GSA employee then informed Basel and Flanagan that he would escort them to their truck so that they could provide him with the work order and their credentials.

O'Keefe left Senator Landrieu's office several minutes after Basel and Flanagan went to the GSA office, after pretending to take a call from "Sam."

All four men were apprehended shortly thereafter

The investigation of this matter was conducted by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Deputy Marshals with the U.S. Marshal's Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan Ginsberg