Is James O'Keefe a Fugitive?

As we mentioned earlier, right-wing hitman James O'Keefe was spotted lurking at the Occupy Wall Street protest in Manhattan's Liberty Plaza today. That might not be good news for O'Keefe, since he's on probation and requires the permission of a federal magistrate judge to leave his home state of New Jersey. And guess what? To judge by his court file, he never got permission. Oops.

Ever since he pleaded guilty in May 2010 to charges of entering federal property under false pretenses, O'Keefe has been on probation. And one of the terms of that probation is that any travel outside of the state of New Jersey—including travel to New York City—must be approved in advance by a federal magistrate judge. According to his court file, O'Keefe has sought, and been granted, permission to travel from his home in Westwood, N.J., to New York, Washington, D.C., Maryland, California, Maine, and other locations at least 30 times since his conviction.

In each case—including a day trip in to New York last April to "visit a family friend"—his attorney filed a motion with a federal judge titled "Motion to Permit Travel Outside the State of New Jersey." And in each motion, his attorney wrote, "Mr. O'Keefe has been advised by the Probation Department in New Jersey that all travel must be approved by the Sentencing Magistrate Judge."

Is James O'Keefe a Fugitive?S

The most recent motion for travel in O'Keefe's case was filed on September 13, and it covered trips up to September 30. It was approved on the day it was filed, as most of the motions have been. It covers trips to New Hampshire, Maine, and Arkansas, but not New York.

Of course, there could be a delay of some sort in updating the case file. But given the fact that the whole point of requiring him to get approval for travel in advance is that it gets approved in advance, it seems like O'Keefe may have skirted the rules of his probation in order to perform some recon on all the dirty hippies taking over New York. Here's some video of the sleuth, wearing a dark suit and carrying a brief case through the throngs of protesters.

O'Keefe's attorney did not immediately return calls and an email. Neither did the U.S. Attorney handling his case. Because it's a federal holiday, I couldn't reach anyone at the U.S. Probation Office in New Jersey.

Update: A spokesman for O'Keefe has told Talking Points Memo that O'Keefe got permission from his probation officer to make the trip. Court filings show that in the past, even when his probation officer had no objection to travel, the U.S. Probation Office still required the assent of the sentencing magistrate in his case.

[Photo via Stephanie Keith]