The son of acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana William J. Flanagan was arrested and charged with trying to interfere with phones at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office in New Orleans.
Robert Flanagan, 24, along with conservative activist James O’Keefe, 25, Joseph Basel, 24, and Stan Dai, 24 were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purposes of committing a felony.
Main Justice has learned that Flanagan worked as an intern for Rep. Mary Fallin (R-Okla.) from January to April of last year. Kathryn Bruns, a press representative for Fallin, said she could only confirm that an intern of the same name worked in the office. She said she could not confirm that it was the same Robert Flanagan who was arrested, and declined to say if she knew whether the intern was from New Orleans or if his father was a federal prosecutor. She declined to comment on the arrest (Updated: 6:23 p.m.).
As first reported by the Associated Press and The Hill, Flanagan is the son of William J. Flanagan, who is the acting head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Shreveport. O’Keefe was in the news last year for his part in making secret videos in several offices of the community organizing group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).
Fallin was one of the Republican representatives who introduced a bill that said the nation owed O’Keefe a debt of gratitude for his undercover videos.
According to an affidavit, Flanagan and an accomplice said that they were repair technicians from the telephone company and were there to fix problems with the phone system, according to an affidavit from an FBI agent. A witness said they were wearing white, hard construction hats, a tool belt, a fluorescent vest and denim pants and tops.
O’Keefe was stationed inside the reception area and was holding a phone to record Flanagan and Basel talking to Landrieu staffers, the FBI said. They manipulated the telephone system at the reception desk and then went to another office in the building to access the main telephone system, investigators said. They told government employees that they left their credentials in their vehicle, according to the FBI.
The Eastern District of Louisiana is handling the case.
UPDATE: 4:55 p.m. A spokesperson from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana tells Main Justice that the four defendants were arrested yesterday. They made their initial court appearance today and were released on $10,000 unsecured bonds. The spokesperson declined to say if the office would seek the maximum penalty if the defendants are found guilty.
UPDATE: 6:15 p.m. Former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana Donald Washington told Main Justice that he has met Flanagan, who he called a fine young man.
UPDATE: 7:10 p.m. Media Matters reports:
The Times-Picayune reported that “Robert Flanagan’s attorney, J. Garrison Jordan, said he believes his client works for the Pelican Institute.”
Robert Flanagan is a frequent blogger for The Pelican Post, where he has written about Landrieu. The Pelican Post is the blog of The Pelican Institute for Public Policy, “a non-profit research and education institution that conducts scholarly research and analysis of Louisiana public policy. The Institute’s mission is to advance sound policies based on the principles of free enterprise, individual liberty, and limited government.”
UPDATE: 11:54 p.m. Flanagan removed his Facebook and Linkedin profiles.
Andrew Ramonas contributed to this report.
Here is the FBI press release:
Four Men Arrested for Entering Government Property Under False Pretenses for the Purpose of Committing a Felony
NEW ORLEANS—JOSEPH BASEL, age 24; ROBERT FLANAGAN, age 24; JAMES O’KEEFE, age 25; and STAN DAI, age 24, were charged in a criminal complaint with entering federal property under false pretenses for the purpose of committing a felony, announced the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
According to the complaint, which was unsealed earlier today, the arrest of FLANAGAN, BASEL, O’KEEFE, and DAI took place after BASEL and O’KEEFE attempted to gain access to the New Orleans office of United States Senator Mary Landrieu on January 25, 2010, while posing as telephone repairmen. According to the complaint, FLANAGAN and BASEL were each dressed in blue denim pants, blue work shirts, light green fluorescent vests, tool belts, and construction-style hard hats when they entered the Hale Boggs Federal Building, located at 500 Poydras Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130. Once in the building, FLANAGAN and BASEL sought access to the offices of Senator Landrieu. O’KEEFE was already present in the office, holding a cellular phone so as to record FLANAGAN and BASEL. Once inside Senator Landrieu’s reception area, FLANAGAN and BASEL told a member of Senator Landrieu’s staff that they were telephone repairmen, and they requested access to the main telephone at the reception desk. FLANAGAN and BASEL then manipulated the telephone system. FLANAGAN and BASEL next requested access to the telephone closet because they needed to perform work on the main telephone system. They were directed to the main office of the United States General Services Administration, also inside the Hale Boggs Federal Building, where they again represented themselves to be employees of the telephone company and stated that they needed to perform repair work in the telephone closet. Both FLANAGAN and BASEL stated that they had left their credentials in their vehicle. In addition, the complaint alleges that O’KEEFE and DAI assisted FLANAGAN and BASEL in the planning, coordination, and preparation of the operation. The men were apprehended by the United States Marshal’s Service soon thereafter.
If convicted, FLANAGAN, BASEL, O’KEEFE, and DAI each face a maximum term of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and three (3) years of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.
The United States Attorney’s Office reiterated that the complaint is merely a charge and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The investigation is being conducted by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Deputy Marshals with the United States Marshal’s Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jordan Ginsberg.