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UMM grad pleads guilty in phone case

Joseph Basel - a University of Minnesota-Minnesota Morris graduate and former aid to Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria - pleaded guilty in New Orleans Wednesday to misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses.

Basel, 24, was one of four conservative activists accused of trying to tamper with the phones in U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office.

Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan were sentenced to two years probation, 75 hours of community service and $1,500 fines.

The fourth and best-known suspect, James O'Keefe, 25, was sentenced to three years probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine. O'Keefe gained fame for his undercover videos that damaged the credibility of a liberal group known as ACORN.

All four were arrested by the FBI on January 25 on felony charges, but federal prosecutors later reduced the charges.

FBI investigators claimed that O'Keefe used his cell phone to try to capture video of two others who posed as telephone repairmen and asked to see the phones at Landrieu's office. The fourth suspect allegedly waited outside in a car with a listening device.

O'Keefe has said the group was trying to investigate complaints that constituents calling Landrieu's office couldn't get through to criticize the Democrat's support of a health care reform bill.

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.

Basel only had minimal contact with Ingebrigtsen since 2006. Ingebrigtsen has said that if found guilty, Basel 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.