TODAY   |  January 27, 2010

Videographer held for phone tampering

Jan. 27: Federal prosecutors claim James O'Keefe, who posed as a pimp to expose shoddy dealings at ACORN, and three other men tampered with phone lines in the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> very much.

>>> the conservative activist who posed as a pimp last year to draw attention to the community organizing group acorn has now been arrested. he and three others are accused of trying to bug phones at the office of a u.s. senator . nbc's justice correspondent pete williams has the details on that. pete, good morning to you.

>> matt, good morning. this sounds like something out of a movie, or maybe a prank video, which could be what this was all about, but it has triggered a serious federal charge and questions about what exactly four young men were up to in new orleans.

>> we talked about the abusive pimp.

>> reporter: at the apparent center of it all, james o'keefe, the 25-year-old who last year got the liberal community organizing group acorn into hot water with this undercover video. now federal prosecutors accuse him and three other men of tampering with telephone lines in the office of u.s. senator mary landrieu , a louisiana democrat. the fbi says it happened monday when two of the men went to the new orleans federal building dressed as phone repairmen. court documents say they went to senator landrieu 's office, asked to use the receptionist telephone and manipulated the handset. all the while, the fbi says, james o'keefe was recording the encounter with a cell phone camera. after trying to get to the building's main telephone system but failing to produce phone company i.d.s, the three were arrested. a fourth man was picked up outside waiting in a truck.

>> we've been threatened with lawsuits. we're tired of this.

>> reporter: o'keefe became a medias sensation last year after he opposed as a pimp in undercover videos asking acorn officials for advice on how to keep the irs from taxing teenage prostitution.

>> if they're making money and they're underage, you shouldn't let nobody know anyway.

>> reporter: because acorn helped register thousands of low-income voters, republicans pronounced. o'keefe became a conservative hero and congress recommended banning all federal funds for acorn.

>> i consider myself an oppressive radical.

>> reporter: in an nbc news interview last fall, o'keefe said he planned to continue making undercover videos.

>> i would hope to be able to do more of these types of things and expose more corruption and do more investigating, absolutely.

>> reporter: also arrested with o'keefe on monday was a louisiana federal prosecutor 's son, robert flanagan , a former congressional intern who criticized senator landrieu earlier this month on a libertarian blog. a lawyer for one of the men calls this a bad stunt. senator landrieu herself calls it unsettling and says she's as interested in anyone in finding out what their motives were, matt.

>> pete williams in washington. pete, thank you very much.

>>> just ahead, the tragic death