What specific laws were broken in the ACORN 'prostitution' flap?

I’m asking because I honestly don’t know, but it seems to this layman’s mind that the answer would be ‘none’. I’m asking in GD rather than GQ because there is some scope for interpretive discussion.

As I understand the sketchy facts of the case, two people posing as a pimp and prostitute entered ACORN offices in DC and Baltimore (and possibly other cities) sometime in July and asked for advice on obtaining a mortgage. They announced what type of ‘business’ they supposedly were in and were apparently given advice that suggested ways to avoid taxes and dodge mortgage lending requirements, all or in part recorded by a hidden camera.

Please be aware that I am not in any way excusing the behavior of the ACORN staffers who were involved, nor am I claiming that law-breaking is the sole issue at hand, but was an actual crime of some sort committed here? No money for sex changed hands, no 14-year-old Salvadoreans were brought to the US and forced into sexual slavery, nor, apparently, was any of the mortgage or tax advice acted on. Was there something prosecutable in the giving of the advice itself? I’m not clear on whether the mere discussion of prostitution, or even tax evasion, between two parties in casual conversation, is illegal. Much appreciated if someone with legal background could weigh in on this, but all discussion is welcome.

They didn’t do anything wrong. That’s why they were fired.

ACORN is an organization committed to helping workers keep their jobs when organizations try to screw them over. That’s why they try to exempt themselves from minimum wage legislation. That’s why they fire people who didn’t do anything illegal. That’s why none of their workers who were convicted were convicted.

It never happened. It isn’t there. It isn’t real.

Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.


I think the crucial question has to be whether or not the ACORN workers actually believed what they were told, that is, if they were utterly clueless and had not the slightest idea what a pimp really looked like.

Cousin Vinny supplied this link to a NY Post story, look and laugh yer ass off!

(I hope I may be forgiven for any implied racism for suggesting a couple of black ladies from the inner city might have some idea what a pimp actually looks like…)

Anyway, I don’t know if “putting on the put on” would qualify as a defense, but I think it ought to. If they didn’t believe a word of it, how could they be conspiring, if you follow.

Really? Did you read the OP, or do you just have a pre-made post that you copy-paste whenever you see the word ACORN? The OP explicitly says that he is not arguing that the ACORN employees did nothing wrong.

As for the original question, I have been wondering that myself. Could their actions perhaps fall under a conspiracy charge, or does the crime actually have to be committed for a conspiracy to commit charge to work?

But he is mistaken.

No laws were broken. ACORN would never fire somebody if they didn’t break any laws. Therefore, no laws were broken.

It never happened.


Actually, laws were broken. It is illegal in Massachussets to lie to record someone without their consent and/or knowledge. Good catch, there, Shodan!

Have you anything else of substance to offer?

No, no actual completed predicate crime (as opposed to an inchoate crime) has to happen for the crime of conspiracy to be complete.

Conspiracy generally happens when two or more people agree to commit a crime, or to commit some illegal act in furtherance of a legal goal. There is no requirement in the common law for there to even be an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy, although many jurisdictions add that element.

In federal law, the generic conspiracy statute and the conspiracy section of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 both contain over act requirements.

(I should note that Congress has codified other conspiracy crimes without an overt act requirement, so don’t get your hopes up if you plan to distribute, say, cocaine; the very agreement to do that, without more, is criminal).

Without seeing the whole tape, it’s difficult to know for sure what happened. I can tell you that “I was just humoring him; I knew he wasn’t a pimp,” is not a tactic to rely on. It’s true that the jury might believe that, but the jury is perfectly entitled to conclude otherwise.

So let’s answer this question: assuming the only evidence is the tape, properly authenticated and in evidence, and testimony about the ordinary role of ACORN’s mortgage assistance efforts, is there a legally sufficient record for conviction? I’d say yes: the tape shows an agreement to submit fraudulent information for a mortgage application and the overt act of collecting the specific pieces of information. But it may be that other evidence contradicts this – it may develop that the only role the ACORN folks have is to help people find the right forms, for example, and that the ACORN staff on the tape have no substantive role in preparing or submitting the application. That would destroy the overt act piece pretty thoroughly.

The Defense calls noted legal scholar and jurisprudential paragon, Bricker. No oath will be required, your reputation is quite sufficient…

(Witness is seated, after surreptitiously kicking the Defense in the shins…)

Counselor, I offer you the picture from the NY Post, as ferreted out by Cousin Vinny, above. I ask you to offer the Court your opinion: could anyone truly believe that this person is, in the vernacular, a “playah”? A “mack”, or “pimp”?

Let the record show that the witness is rolling about on the floor, clutching his sides and howling with laughter.

No further questions.

Very well, then, what look do all pimps have in common? Or perhaps I should ask, what look do all managers of women engaged in prostitution have in common?

Your defense of ACORN as an organization is sound and inspired. Your defense of these two particular screwups is just silly.

P.S. Maryland, not Massachusetts.

I’d just like to know why Bricker thinks this is worthy of investigation while Bush’s and Cheney’s authorization of torture is not.

Do I win the “Identify the Most Rhetorical Question of the Year” award?

Or that she’s a prostitute? From my non-commercial contacts with the breed, she’s FAR too pretty.

They’re different? That seems kind of pointless, but ok, correction noted.

Can I define what a pimp looks like? Probably not, its a judgement call. But Mr O’Keefe apparently thought he knew, he donned what he thought was the appropriate costume. That he looks exactly like a preppy white boy dressed up for a “Pimp and Ho” party at his frat house is kinda my point, I don’t think anyone remotely aware of the inner city world would believe it for a second.

If a guy in a wheel chair elicits my advice in an effort to pole-vault his way to a crime, and I don’t believe it, and I humor him, I find it hard to believe that I’m guilty of any sort of conspiracy to commit an actual crime, rather than a fantasy.

I’m reminded of the To Catch A Predator, “how can I conspire to do something to someone who doesn’t exist” arguments.

Good analogy. And thought it’s apparently too much for some folks in those threads to wrap their minds around, the answer is the same: you can. You can be criminally liable for attempting to sexually abuse a minor even if that minor doesn’t exist, and you can be criminally liable for conspiracy to defraud even when the underlying fraud doesn’t actually exist.

ETA: my analysis assumes that the jury found them guilty and we’re looking at the record to see if it’s legally sufficient to support a finding of guilt… which means that any affirmative defenses, such as entrapment, if they even could be raised, are not considered. In other words, worst-case for the defense.

Shodan, I have rarely seen more useless pair of posts than your ‘contributions’ to this thread so far.

I’m interested in a discussion, and in learning a little something about the law. You, apparently, are interested only pissing in someone’s cornflakes every chance you get. Please go away,

While Bricker may have stated this elsewhere, that particular issue is not under discussion in this thread, AFAIK he did not bring it up here.

In the transcript I read (parts of) from the Baltimore video, O’Keefe presented himself as someone who planned to run for a political position and was looking for a way to ‘take care of’ Giles without harming his ambitions, suggesting that O’Keefe himself knew he’d never pass a a sterotypical pimp.

In any event, I think the idea of what pimps and hos look like for many people stems more from imagery in '70’s Blaxploitation movies than current reality.

I think this is a valid question. Bricker, do you have a good reason why this should be pushed full tilt, but Bush should be swept under the rug?

Assuming you’re not a spineless hack, why do you think one, and not the other?

Having meet more than a few actual pimps and prostitutes and after clicking on the link to the photos, I must agree with elucidator. If they do prosecute the ACORN workers that photograph followed by the admission of “Okay, we admit we were goofing off at work, but it was a slow day and when these two clowns came in we thought it was either a hidden camera show or a practical joke and ran with it,” should be defense enough of any wrong doing.