A judge has directed the New York Times to return internal documents belonging to Project Veritas that were cited by the paper in an article last month. The report had sparked allegations that the FBI was behind the memos’ leak.
In his ruling on Friday, Justice Charles Wood of the Westchester County Supreme Court in New York state ordered the New York Times to give Project Veritas back any physical copies of legal memos prepared by the media watchdog group’s attorneys and to erase all electronic copies.
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The judge also upheld his temporary order issued last month against further publication of details from the memos. He said that the documents did not constitute a matter of public concern, adding that they fell under the group’s expectations of privacy that outweighed concerns about press freedoms.
“Steadfast fidelity to, and vigilance in protecting First Amendment freedoms cannot be permitted to abrogate the fundamental protections of attorney-client privilege or the basic right to privacy,” Wood ruled.
Project Veritas had raised objections to a November 11 New York Times article that purportedly revealed how the group held discussions with its lawyers to “gauge how far its deceptive reporting practices can go before running afoul of federal laws.
The article’s timing prompted outrage and suspicions that an FBI source might have leaked the newspaper confidential data obtained during recent raids.
It came out in less than a week after an FBI raid of Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe’s home – as part of an investigation into the group’s acquisition of a diary supposedly belonging to Ashley Biden, the US president’s daughter.