Yesterday I wrote about the two people from Florida who pleaded guilty to stealing Ashley Biden’s diary. As I pointed out in that post, the reason this is being treated as a federal case is that both of them pleaded guilty to transporting stolen property across state lines. They qualified for those charges because a) the knew the material was stolen, b) they transported it across state lines and c) the material had a value of more than $5,000.
But in order for Project Veritas to be guilty of receiving stolen property, the would have had to know the material was stolen. And by all accounts, the thieves who brought them the diary claimed it wasn’t stolen but had been abandoned in a house where they found it. But here’s where things get a bit more tricky. Project Veritas, in an effort to verify the diary was real, asked the two thieves to return to the house and gather more material belonging to Ashley Biden. Here’s how the NY Times reported it.
…prosecutors said the two at one point disclosed to a Project Veritas operative that Ms. Biden had stored more items at the Florida house, and that they returned to the house to steal them at the operative’s request. The two later met with the operative in Florida and gave the additional stolen property to that employee, who shipped it to New York, prosecutors said.
My post yesterday ended with a bunch of questions:
Would that constitute receiving of stolen goods?…were the additional items taken from the home valued at over $5,000?…Was the purchase of the diary contingent on getting these additional items or was there a separate payment?
It seemed to me that without some additional information it wasn’t really clear if the feds had a case. Today the Associated Press has its own story up about the thieves and it contains some new details about the arrangement with Project Veritas.
Their next stop was Project Veritas, which paid for the two to bring some of the material — including the diary and a digital device with family photos — to a New York luxury hotel, prosecutors said.
Project Veritas staffers met with Kurlander and Harris in New York and agreed to pay an initial $10,000, saying more money could come if they retrieved more of Ashley Biden’s items from the home, partly in order to authenticate the diary, according to the court filing…
Prosecutors said Kurlander and Harris took Ashley Biden’s stored tax documents, clothes and luggage as Kurlander pressed Project Veritas in a message to commit to a bigger payout: “We are taking huge risks. This isn’t fair.”
A Project Veritas staffer soon flew to Florida, the employee shipped the items to New York and the group paid Harris and Kurlander $20,000 apiece, prosecutors said.
With the obvious caveat that I’m not an attorney, it sounds like the main payment happened after the 2nd trip to retrieve more items belonging to Ashley Biden. So it may be hard to separate the payment for the diary from the payment for the other items and the total for all of it and for each separate transaction more than $5,000.
So it seems the case hinges on whether or not PV knew the material was stolen. From what I’ve seen so far, the thieves told them it had been abandoned, not that it was stolen. That’s what PV was saying yesterday:
“Project Veritas’s news gathering was ethical and legal” in the diary affair, the group said in a statement Thursday. The organization said earlier that it turned the journal over to law enforcement after receiving it from “tipsters” who maintained that it had been abandoned in a room.
“A journalist’s lawful receipt of material later alleged to be stolen is routine, commonplace and protected by the First Amendment,” Project Veritas added Thursday.
We’ll have to wait and see what turns up next.