A federal court in Manhattan ordered the appointment of a special master to review materials seized from Project Veritas during an FBI raid last month tied to alleged theft of Ashley Biden's diary, the youngest daughter of the president.
The order signed by Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District Court of New York on Wednesday marks a victory for the conservative investigation group's founder James O'Keefe, who had requested the court to appoint a special master to oversee any searches of his phones. Federal prosecutors opposed the request.
"The Court determines that the appointment of a special master is warranted here because 'it is important that the procedure adopted not only be fair but also appear to be fair,'" the filing said.
The court also denied a request by Project Veritas and O'Keefe for an order for the government to search for alleged leaks related to the government's investigation because they did "not provide a legal basis for their request or alleged that the Government violated any specific rule, law, or policy."
Last month, FBI agents raided the homes of O'Keefe and residences linked to people who previously worked for Project Veritas, reportedly looking for evidence relating to a diary belonging to President Joe Biden's 40-year-old daughter.
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The order comes one day after a federal magistrate judge in Manhattan rejected a bid by Project Veritas to make details about the legal basis for the FBI raid at the respective locations last month public.
“Given the details about Ms. Biden’s personal information included in the Materials, ‘the privacy interests of innocent third parties’ — including the victim of the alleged criminal activity — is in important countervailing factor against granting public access," Magistrate Judge Sarah Cave said Tuesday.
During the November raids, FBI agents seized the cellphones of O'Keefe and others previously associated with the investigative group, which prompted an outcry from First Amendment advocates claiming the group's activities likely qualify for protection for members of the news media in accordance with federal law and Justice Department regulations.
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"Project Veritas is gratified that multiple media outlets and journalist organizations have recognized the seminal importance of this case," Harmeet Dhillon, a civil rights attorney representing Project Veritas, tweeted Wednesday.