CONCORD — The Attorney General’s office says criminal charges will not be brought against the political activist organization Project Veritas and its leader, James O’Keefe, following an investigation into the recording of a video published online of an Atkinson man admitting to double voting in 2018.
The Attorney General’s office subpoenaed O’Keefe in April. O’Keefe said in an April interview a criminal investigator handed him the subpoena after he met with representatives from the Attorney General’s office to share evidence about a 77-year-old Atkinson man who admitted to accidentally voting twice in the 2018 election.
Project Veritas, a New York-based nonprofit that has been criticized in the past for using illegal and potentially unethical tactics, sent the Union Leader a video in which its operatives questioned Robert A. Bell of Atkinson about his voting record.
In the edited video and in a subsequent telephone interview with a Union Leader reporter, Bell admitted that he cast an early-voting ballot in Florida last year and then voted in New Hampshire. Election records from Atkinson and Flagler County, Fla. also confirm that Bell voted in both states, a felony under state and federal law.
Bell, who is a registered Republican, said the Project Veritas operatives did not tell him they were recording the conversation until after it had concluded. In New Hampshire, it is illegal under most circumstances to record another person without their consent.
On Monday, Project Veritas provided the Union Leader with letters from the Attorney General’s office reporting that the grand jury subpoena has been withdrawn, the complaint filed against Project Veritas and O’Keefe by Bell has been dropped, and all complaints to the NH Attorney General against Project Veritas, Project Veritas Action Fund and O’Keefe have been dismissed.
‘The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has joined state and federal courts across the country in vindicating the methods of Project Veritas’ undercover reporting,’ said O’Keefe in a statement. ‘We will continue to expose fraud and abuse actively in the Granite State.’
In a phone interview in April, Bell said when he cast his ballot in New Hampshire last November he had forgotten that he voted early in Florida, where Bell maintained a home until recently.
“I was back here (in New Hampshire) and I had totally forgotten everything that had happened because it was my best friend of 25 years and I was really distraught after the funeral down there,” Bell told a Union Leader reporter.
“Project Veritas came back today, harassing me at my door with a video recorder again. I’m a 77-year-old, almost 78-year-old, veteran and I don’t appreciate that kind of harassment from idiots.”
Bell was arrested about two weeks after the recording was made on a felony double-voting charge. Bell then hired attorney Alan Cronheim of Sisti Law Offices in Chichester to file charges be against Project Veritas.
Bell’s complaint was investigated by the Attorney General’s office, which reviewed the video, the Atkinson Police Department report, and information Bell provided.
“This office considered whether the conduct of Project Veritas and those acting on its behalf constituted a criminal violation (of state codes which) prohibits the willful interception of an ‘oral communication’ without the consent of all the parties in the conversation,” wrote Geoffrey W. R. Ward, a senior assistant attorney general, in a letter to Bell dated June 27.
“RSA 570-A:1, II, defines ‘oral communication’ to mean ‘any verbal communication uttered by a person who has a reasonable expectation that the communication is not subject to interception, under circumstance justifying such expectation.’”
After reviewing the law and evidence, Ward wrote investigators determined criminal charges couldn’t be brought, and the state couldn’t sustain its “burden to prove” that the recording violated the law, he said.
Paul Twomey, a retired Epsom attorney, had also filed a complaint against Project Veritas over audio and visual recordings of campaign workers for Bernie Sanders and Maggie Hassan recorded in 2016.
In a separate letter to Twomey, dated June 26, Ward writes that investigators reviewed materials submitted and conducted interviews, and determined the state could not bring charges.
O’Keefe has run into several legal and ethical problems as a result of his sting operations.
In 2010, he and three associates were convicted of misdemeanors for entering a federal building under false pretenses to secretly film inside the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.
Several states, including Florida, have banned O’Keefe from fundraising because he failed to report the misdemeanor conviction on nonprofit forms.