By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press Writer
Monday, March 1, 2010 at 4:29 p.m.
NEW YORK — ACORN employees caught on video apparently advising a couple posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend to lie about her profession and launder her earnings did not commit a crime, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office said Monday.
The office began its investigation Sept. 15, the day after the video was released online by the conservative activists who posed as an outlaw couple seeking help buying a house. It was but one in a series of such videos filmed at ACORN offices around the country that sparked a national scandal and helped drive the organization to near ruin.
"We are gratified that the district attorney, after a thorough investigation, found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by ACORN," said a statement by Jean Sassine, a spokeswoman for the organization that has replaced ACORN's Brooklyn operation.
Several of ACORN's local offices have officially disbanded and resumed operations under new names and with similar staff in an effort to escape the scandal that has surrounded the 40-year-old organization in recent months.
In Brooklyn, the newly established New York Communities for Change "is committed to moving forward with management and transparency reforms and building a strong independent organization to advocate for low-income New Yorkers," Sassine said.
The videos were made by conservative activists Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe, who used a hidden camera on visits to ACORN offices in Brooklyn; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; California and elsewhere.
The videos created a political and media firestorm when they were released, adding to problems the organization had faced as it was dogged by allegations of voter-registration fraud and embezzlement. In September, Congress blocked previously approved funds from going to ACORN.
"Hopefully today's announcement, and similar results from independent reviews, will make politicians and media examine the facts more carefully the next time a valuable community organization is attacked," ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan said Monday in a statement.
But Kurt Bardella, spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, said Monday that ongoing federal and state investigations "will expose the criminal nature of ACORN's deliberate effort to abuse taxpayer dollars to advance a radical political agenda."
The two ACORN employees who were recorded handling the couple's case in Brooklyn were fired, and ACORN brought in ex-Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger to perform an internal investigation, which concluded there was no criminal conduct.
Since then, O'Keefe and three others have been arrested and accused of trying to tamper with Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office phones. O'Keefe has denied the charges and said the group was trying to investigate complaints that constituents calling the Democrat's office couldn't get through to criticize her support of a health care overhaul bill.