The head of a Michigan software company filed a lawsuit Thursday blaming Los Angeles County. Atty. George Gascón for targeting him in a botched prosecution last year, based almost entirely on the words of election deniers and conspiracy theorists.
Eugene Yu, chief executive officer of a 21-employee company known as Konnech, accused Gascón and the prosecutor’s office of several civil rights violations, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to 86’s complaint. pages.
Yu was arrested in Michigan in October and charged with compromising the personal information of Los Angeles County election workers by storing data on Chinese servers. In the months before Yu’s arrest, Konnech had been the subject of unfounded allegations that he was working with the Chinese government to influence U.S. elections.
Many of these claims have been pushed by True the Vote, a Texas-based group that traffics in conspiracy theories denying the legitimacy of the 2020 election. The organization financed and appeared in the right-wing provocateur’s film “2000 Mules.” Dinesh D’Souza, who purported to prove that then-President Trump lost his bid for a second term due to coordinated ballot stuffing by Democrats.
A little more than a month after Gascón announced the arrest, which drew praise from former President Trump and other right-wing election deniers, the case against Yu collapsed.
After initially denying any involvement by True the Vote in the investigation, the district attorney’s office acknowledged that a tip from the group’s co-founder, Gregg Phillips, had triggered the investigation into Yu. Phillips also said he testified before the grand jury. Even though the group’s election-related allegations were investigated by several state attorneys general and the FBI without any charges being filed, Los Angeles County prosecutors decided to pursue the case.
Gascón’s office dismissed the initial indictment related to True the Vote and filed new embezzlement and conspiracy charges against Yu, but those too were dropped in early November. The lead prosecutor, Eric Neff, was placed on administrative leave a week later.
At the time, the prosecutor’s office expressed concern about the pace of the investigation and possible bias in the presentation of evidence. A spokeswoman did not specify the nature or source of this bias.
In the lawsuit, Yu claims that Gascón’s botched lawsuits led nearly half of Konnech’s customers to terminate their contracts with the company and cost him about $80 million. The Yu family was also subjected to a litany of violent threats, according to the lawsuit, which claims someone also left dead animals outside the family home after news of his arrest broke.
The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office — allegedly the victim in the case brought by Los Angeles County prosecutors — never severed ties with Konnech. Mike Sanchez, a spokesman for the office, told the Times last year that he had received no evidence that anyone’s information had been compromised. The office entered into a contract with Konnech to use the company’s PollChief software for “storing and managing poll worker and polling location data” in October 2020, an agreement that will apply until the election presidential election next year, Sanchez said.
The DA’s office “maliciously and recklessly relied on and knowingly aligned itself with election deniers and their even more discredited and completely false conspiracy theories,” according to the complaint.
Konnech’s PollChief software was used by counties across the country to register and schedule poll workers, and has nothing to do with ballot counting, according to the company.
“Defendants knew or should have known that the election deniers and the information they provided was unreliable, uncredible, untrustworthy, and could not serve as a basis for a finding of probable cause,” the lawsuit states. trial.
The complaint names Gascón, LA County, Neff and DA’s Office investigator Andrew Stevens as defendants. Stevens went to an event called “The Pit” in the Arizona desert last year, where True the Vote and other election deniers aired their allegations against Konnech, according to the lawsuit.
Tiffiny Blacknell, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said she could not comment on pending litigation. She declined to answer a question about Neff’s status within the office. Calls and emails seeking comment from Neff and Stevens were not returned Thursday. A spokesperson for True the Vote noted that the group is “not a party to this lawsuit and therefore cannot comment on it.”
Konnech also filed a defamation suit against True the Vote last year, but dropped the suit in April. In a statement, the company’s attorney, Dean Pamphilis, said Konnech decided to dismiss the case after obtaining injunctions against True the Vote so it could “now focus on its lawsuit against LADA’s office.” for his flagrant violations of Konnech’s constitutional rights.”
The lawsuit alleges that Los Angeles County prosecutors not only used election deniers as witnesses against Yu, but also hired two people closely connected to the movement to assist in the initial search of Yu’s home and Konnech offices .
Harry Haury and Nate Cain, CEO and founder respectively of cybersecurity firm Cain & Associates, have been hired as forensic investigators to accompany and assist law enforcement in reviewing data seized from Konnech, according to the suit. Both men have deep ties to the “Stop the Steal” movement.
Haury spoke to the Pit, announcing that he believed that “any nationalized Chinese citizen represents a risk.” He also testified before the Los Angeles County grand jury, according to the lawsuit. Cain is running for Congress in West Virginia, and both have previously raised money for True the Vote. The duo was also part of a little-known team of cybersecurity experts who helped analyze the 2020 election for some of Trump’s closest allies in the weeks after Trump’s defeat.
Haury and Cain received continued access to Konnech’s confidential business data, which included Los Angeles County election worker data as well as privileged communications between Yu, Konnech and their attorneys, the complaint claims, adding that they did not did not return this information and instead threatened to release it. this publicly.
Haury and Cain did not respond to requests for comment Thursday. Blacknell did not respond to a question about how the district attorney’s office vets contractors.
Prosecutors also refused to return electronic devices they took from Konnech during their search of the company’s offices in Okemos, Michigan, last year. Although prosecutors said they would re-evaluate the charges against Yu after dismissing the case in November, the office has not provided any updates on the case.
It remains unclear what, if any, evidence the prosecutor’s office has against Yu that is not related to the election denial movement. Transcripts of the grand jury hearing in which Yu was indicted last year remain sealed.
Prosecutors dropped the original indictment that allegedly relied on information from True the Vote and later filed new embezzlement charges against Yu, saying his violation of a contractual promise not to stockpile information outside the country amounted to theft of public funds. It remains unclear whether Yu actually stored data abroad.
Los Angeles Times