Ashley Biden Project Veritas: Florida residents plead guilty in scheme to sell president’s daughter’s diary

NEW YORK — Two Florida residents have pleaded guilty to selling a journal and other items stolen from President Joe Biden’s daughter to conservative group Project Veritas for $40,000, prosecutors said Thursday.

Aimee Harris and Robert Kurlander “were trying to profit from their theft of someone else’s personal property,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

Harris, 40, from Palm Beach, and Kurlander, 58, from nearby Jupiter, face up to five years in prison. They pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines.

Harris’ attorney Sam Talkin said she has “taken responsibility for her behavior and looks forward to moving on with her life.” Kurlander’s attorney, Florian Miedel, declined to comment.

While authorities have not identified anyone in the case other than the accused, the details of the investigation have been public for months.

Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter, moved out of a friend’s home in Delray Beach, Fla., in the spring of 2020 when she was keeping the diary and other belongings there, prosecutors said in a court filing.

They said Harris then moved into the same room, found the items and got in touch with Kurlander, who enthusiastically said in a text message that he would help her make a “ton of money” from the sale and added Add a swear word to “ton”.

The two initially wanted to sell some of the stolen property to then-President Donald Trump’s campaign, but a representative turned them down, urging them to take the footage to the FBI, according to court records.

The campaign “can’t use this,” Kurlander Harris explained in a September 2020 text message, adding, “It needs to be done differently.”

Their next stop was Project Veritas, which paid the two to bring some of the footage — including the diary and a digital device containing family photos — to a luxury New York hotel, prosecutors said.

Project Veritas employees met with Kurlander and Harris in New York and agreed to pay $10,000 initially, saying more money could come if they got more of Ashley Biden’s belongings from the house, in part around to authenticate the diary, according to court records.

Back in Florida, Kurlander Harris wrote a candid assessment of what would result from the exchange, prosecutors said.

“They are in a shady business and here they are taking what is literally a stolen diary and information … and attempting to write a story that will ruin Ashley Biden’s life and potentially affect the upcoming presidential election,” he wrote, according to court papers. He added that the two needed to “take even more precaution” and get “everything valuable” out of the Delray Beach home, according to the court filings.

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Prosecutors said Kurlander and Harris took Ashley Biden’s stored tax documents, clothing and luggage when Kurlander urged Project Veritas for a higher payout in a message: “We are taking tremendous risks. That’s not fair.”

A Project Veritas employee soon flew to Florida, the employee shipped the items to New York, and the group paid Harris and Kurlander $20,000 each, prosecutors said.

Project Veritas bills itself as a news organization. It is best known for performing hidden camera stitches that have embarrassed news outlets, unions and Democratic politicians.

“Project Veritas’ news gathering was ethical and legal” in the diary affair, the group said in a statement Thursday. The organization previously said it turned the diary over to law enforcement after receiving it from “whistle-blowers” who claimed it had been left in a room.

“The lawful receipt by a journalist of allegedly stolen material is routine, commonplace and protected by the First Amendment,” Project Veritas added Thursday.

Neither Project Veritas nor its employees have been charged with a crime.

The FBI searched the group’s New York offices and the homes of some of its employees as part of the investigation. A court in New York hired a former federal judge to review material seized in these searches to ensure investigators could not view material protected by journalistic or attorney-client privilege.

In general, media companies are not responsible for receiving material that may have been stolen if they were not involved in the theft. However, criminal liability can arise if theft is organized and then knowingly paid for stolen material.

“There is no First Amendment protection for theft and interstate transportation of stolen property,” the US Attorney’s Office wrote in a court filing last year.

O’Keefe has said that Project Veritas was ultimately unable to confirm that the diary belonged to Ashley Biden. The group did not release any information about it.

He added that “Project Veritas undoubtedly acted appropriately at every step.”

Ashley Biden, a 41-year-old social worker, is the daughter of President and First Lady Jill Biden. His eldest daughter and first wife died in a car accident in 1972.

Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed from Philadelphia.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Ashley Biden Project Veritas: Florida residents plead guilty in scheme to sell president’s daughter’s diary

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