Former aide to Ingebrigtsen accused of tampering with phones of U.S. SenatorA former aide to State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, is implicated in a plot to tamper with the phone system of U.S. Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu's office in New Orleans.
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
A former aide to State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, is implicated in a plot to tamper with the phone system of U.S. Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu's office in New Orleans.
Joseph Basel, 24, was one of four men arrested by the FBI on Monday, along with James O’Keefe, a 25-year-old conservative filmmaker who gained fame for his undercover videos that damaged the credibility of a liberal group known as ACORN.
Basel helped with Ingebrigtsen’s successful Senate campaign run in 2006. He was assigned to the campaign by the Republican Senate Caucus, which is a common procedure in races that the caucus considers to be key, according to Ingebrigtsen.
When Ingebrigtsen learned of Basel’s arrest on Monday, he was flabbergasted.
“I had no idea,” Ingebrigtsen told the Echo Press Wednesday. “I was very shocked to see that he was involved in an alleged incident like this.”
Ingebrigtsen said he has had only minimal contact with Basel since 2006. He remembers him as an “intelligent, nice kid” who, like Ingebrigtsen, enjoyed hunting and fishing. Ingebrigtsen said Basel was a hard worker who helped keep his campaign organized.
Ingebrigtsen emphasized that all those charged with a crime should be presumed innocent but added if Basel is found guilty, he should be punished by the full force of the law.
Basel has an extensive background as a conservative activist. He was the editor of a conservative magazine published at the University of Minnesota-Morris campus. He also attended the 2005 presidential inauguration with more than a dozen College Republicans.
On his Facebook page, Basel said he is a fan of the Tea Party Patriots, Young Americas Foundation and Campus Reform.
The four suspects were charged Tuesday with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.
The crime carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to an FBI affidavit, Basel and another man, Robert Flanagan, dressed as telephone company employees. They were wearing jeans, fluorescent green vests, tool belts and hard hats.
When they arrived at Landrieu’s office, they told a staff person that they were there to fix telephone problems, according to the FBI.
O’Keefe was already in the office. He had told the staff person that he was waiting for someone to arrive, according to the FBI.
The staff person told investigators that Basel manipulated the handset and said the main line wasn’t working. Basel and Flanagan then asked where the telephone closet was located and they were directed to the main General Services Administration (GSA) office, according to investigators.
After a GSA employee asked for their credentials, the men said they left them in their vehicle. A short time later, the U.S. Marshal’s Service apprehended Basel, Flanagan, O’Keefe, and a fourth suspect, Stan Dai.
The FBI affidavit doesn’t describe what, if anything, the men did to the telephone equipment, which was located in a federal building. It states only that they were “willfully and maliciously interfering with a telephone system operated and controlled by the United States of America.”
At their Tuesday court appearance, the judge allowed the men to be released on $10,000 bond each.
The men haven’t said much to the media about the allegations. O’Keefe reportedly called out, “The truth shall set me free,” before leaving the courthouse in a taxicab.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Senator Landrieu described the incident as “unsettling.” She added she was “as interested as anyone else about [the suspects’] motives and purpose, which I hope will become clear as the investigation moves forward.”