Video played

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY KEITH L. ALEXAN­DER

at the trial of six peo­ple charged in In­au­gu­ra­tion Day protests was se­cretly filmed by Project Ver­i­tas and shows a plan­ning meet­ing ahead of the demon­stra­tions, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony.

Video played dur­ing the trial of six peo­ple charged with par­tic­i­pat­ing in ri­ot­ing on the day of Pres­i­dent Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion was se­cretly recorded by Project Ver­i­tas and shows a plan­ning meet­ing ahead of the protests, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony.

De­fense at­tor­neys ques­tioned the gov­ern­ment’s re­liance on the video, with one ask­ing a D.C. po­lice of­fi­cer about his knowl­edge of Project Ver­i­tas. The or­ga­ni­za­tion uses se­cret record­ings to tar­get the main­stream news me­dia and left-lean­ing groups.

The video, played this week, shows a group in a D.C. church base­ment for what pros­e­cu­tors said was a Jan. 8 protest plan­ning meet­ing. It shows or­ga­niz­ers ad­vis­ing that peo­ple wear com­fort­able shoes, avoid car­ry­ing iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and, if stopped by po­lice, de­cline to give their names. One per­son says that would “jam up the po­lice.”

In court Wed­nes­day, D.C. po­lice of­fi­cer Bryan Adelmeyer tes­ti­fied that while work­ing un­der­cover, he at­tended the same plan­ning meet­ing. Days later, he said, Ver­i­tas sent po­lice a copy of a video, which the of­fi­cer said was se­cretly recorded.

Adelmeyer tes­ti­fied that nearly 300 peo­ple at­tended the meet­ing and that or­ga­niz­ers said they planned to be “non­vi­o­lent but con­fronta­tional” and cause “as many traf­fic dis­rup­tions as pos­si­ble.”

De­fense at­tor­ney Jamie Heine asked Adelmeyer about ap­par­ent ed­its made to the video, point­ing out that the timer seemed to skip a few sec­onds and later dis­ap­peared.

Adelmeyer said au­thor­i­ties made one edit to avoid re­veal­ing his dis­guise. Pros­e­cu­tors said they also edited the video to con­ceal the iden­tity of the per­son who made it.

In an email, Stephen Gor­don, com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for Project Ver­i­tas, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion at­tended the meet­ing and pro­vided “un­cut, raw video” to D.C. po­lice, the FBI and the U.S. Se­cret Ser­vice.

In court, Heine re­peat­edly asked Adelmeyer whether he was fa­mil­iar with Project Ver­i­tas. The of­fi­cer said he had done Google searches.

Heine asked if the of­fi­cer knew that the group’s founder, James O’Keefe, was con­victed of a mis­de­meanor in 2010 for us­ing a fake iden­tity to en­ter a fed­eral build­ing dur­ing a sting. Heine also asked Adelmeyer if he was aware of the news ear­lier this week that a woman who ap­pears to work with Project Ver­i­tas falsely claimed to The Wash­ing­ton Post that, as a teenager, she had been im­preg­nated by Roy Moore, the Repub­li­can U.S. Se­nate can­di­date in Alabama.

Adelmeyer said he had “read about that.”

De­fense at­tor­ney Sara Kropf asked Adelmeyer if any­one heard on the video was associated with Project Ver­i­tas. “Is it pos­si­ble other Ver­i­tas peo­ple were there who could have been speak­ing as well?” she asked.

Adelmeyer said he did not know.

At­tor­neys for the six de­fen­dants, the first group charged in the protests to go to trial, say their clients were peace­fully protest­ing when a hand­ful of march at­ten­dees be­gan van­dal­iz­ing busi­nesses and ve­hi­cles.

Pros­e­cu­tors have said there is no ev­i­dence that the six de­fen­dants di­rectly caused any dam­age but con­tend that they were part of the group and also bear re­spon­si­bil­ity.

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Jen­nifer Kerkhoff used the video to show that protesters dis­cussed strate­gies to deal with po­lice. There was no men­tion on the video of van­dal­iz­ing.

Adelmeyer, who said he didn’t know any­one work­ing with Ver­i­tas was at the meet­ing, tes­ti­fied that he thinks the record­ing was made with a tiny cam­era that re­places a but­ton on cloth­ing.

The of­fi­cer said that he had agreed to go un­der­cover and “was told we were in­ves­ti­gat­ing crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties masked by First Amend­ment ac­tiv­i­ties.”

The first de­fen­dants to face trial are Heine’s client, Michelle Mac­chio, 26, of Naples, Fla., as well as: Jen­nifer Ar­mento, 38, of Philadel­phia; Christina Sim­mons, 20, of Cock­eysville, Md.; Alexei Wood, 37, of San An­to­nio; Oliver Har­ris, 28, of Philadel­phia; and Brit­tne Law­son, 27, of Pitts­burgh.

Tri­als for oth­ers charged in the protests are set through mid-2018.

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