As I write this on Thursday, November 3, 2022, True the Vote’s Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips have been in jail since Monday morning, sent there by the judge presiding over a defamation case against them in a Houston, Texas courtroom.
Even though Konnech CEO Eugene Yu was arrested on October 4 by Los Angeles County prosecutors and charged with stealing his clients election worker data and sending it illegally to China, Konnech is continuing to pursue this defamation case against True the Vote.
But are these court hearings still about supposed defamation or has this lawsuit become a vehicle for something else?
Konnech makes the following claims in its defamation lawsuit:
- That True The Vote defamed Konnech and its founder, CEO Eugene Yu, by claiming that the election software company was taking client’s election-related data and storing it outside of the United States in China. Konnech has stridently represented to the court in official filings and affidavits that none of its client’s data is stored anywhere outside of the US. In fact, Konnech maintains in its lawsuit that all clientele data is kept only on secure servers inside the US.
- That Gregg Phillips and his team hacked their way into a server located somewhere in China that by some arcane act of sorcery had 1.8 million US poll worker’s personal identification information that apparently came from Konnech.
- That Phillips and his team stole key data off this Chinese server and still have not returned all the purloined data they are not contractually allowed to possess.
Federal District Judge Kenneth Hoyt appears to be far more interested in helping Konnech track down the identities of all involved in exposing the company’s massive contract fraud involving it’s client’s election data than he is in properly deciding if its defamatory for True the Vote to claim Eugene Yu did what LA County officials just arrested and charged him for doing.
One of the most stunning aspects of this case is how the judge seems to have instantly accepted without question or evidence Konnech’s version of events from the very start and has pro-actively taken steps to counter any attempt by the defendants to prove the falsity of Konnech’s representations to him.
Let me provide just one example of this:
On Thursday October 27, True the Vote’s lawyers had a representative of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on the phone ready to speak to the judge about the case being made against Eugene Yu. This LA County rep was clearly prepared to discuss evidence that the server in question was indeed located in China, and not inside the United States. This person was prepared to discuss the very relevant fact that the data on the Chinese server included over one million US poll worker’s personal identification information. This person was prepared to answer any questions the judge had about the criminal case being prosecuted against Eugene Yu and, by extension, against Konnech itself.
As the stunned observers in the courtroom looked on, Judge Hoyt insisted he had no reason to speak to this LA County person, and wasn’t interested in discussing any of the evidence being used to prosecute Eugene Yu because he sees that as a completely different case, and so he was not going to waste any of his time on that.
Konnech’s lawyers in this case continue to stridently insist that at no time and in no way has Konnech ever transmitted or stored any of their client’s election data to any country outside of the United States. And even if this was the case and it was Konnech that put this data on the Chinese server, Konnech had a contract giving them a right to have possession of this client data while True the Vote does not. [Hold onto that thought about True the Vote ‘having possession of’ any Konnech data. It’s going to become important later].
Konnech lawyers are forced to hold to this claim, as every single US county that Konnech signed a contract with for Election Management Services [EMS] clearly and concisely states that all of the client’s data will be stored **only** on secure servers inside of the United States. Having to admit that Konnech engaged in contract fraud with some or perhaps even all of the US counties that hired them for EMS services would immediately place the company in jeopardy of contract fraud and embezzlement on top of theft of personal identification information.
After all, if Gregg and Catherine claimed Eugene Yu and Konnech were storing a massive amount of their client’s US-election-related data in China, in direct contravention to it’s contractual obligations, and evidence has emerged that Eugene Yu and Konnech **were in fact** doing exactly that, where is the defamation?
Konnech’s lawyers attempt to dissemble by stating that no one has claimed that Mr. Yu or Konnech attempted to **sell** any of this personal data, but that’s besides the point. Just taking this client data out of the country without the client’s knowledge or permission and in direct contravention to written and signed contracts is a CRIME.
And yet all throughout these hearings, Judge Hoyt has professed to believe Konnech’s representations about this server and has studiously avoided every attempt to establish the actual location of the server upon which the 1.8 million poll worker’s personal identification information was discovered and if it was Konnech that put it there.
Judge Hoyt has avoided any and all discussion in his courtroom about the fact that Konnech’s CEO Eugene Yu was arrested on October 4 and is currently out on bond, criminally charged with doing exactly what True the Vote had claimed he did: illegally transferring and storing his client’s election-related data on a server in China.
While Judge Hoyt is a respected jurist with over 35 years experience on the bench, I think most observers like myself who are very familiar with the Konnech case in California have to strongly disagree with this opinion that he has expressed, that the defamation case brought against True the Vote has nothing to do with the arrest and criminal prosecution of Eugene Yu.
It has everything to do with it.
LA County investigators and prosecutors saw enough evidence that Yu had engaged in deliberate contract fraud involving stolen poll worker’s PII that a grand jury returned an indictment against him.
So apparently some evidence **does** exist that Eugene Yu played a direct role in sending this massive amount of Konnech client data to China, because this is what LA County has charged him for. But Judge Hoyt has no interest in learning anything about this.
It appears to me after reading the transcripts of the contempt hearing that Judge Hoyt is far more interested in helping Konnech learn the identities of the people who exposed the crimes that led to this massive breach of US election infrastructure than he is on handling a simple case of defamation.
Although Judge Hoyt may be of the opinion that a historical data breach of more than 1.8 million poll worker’s PII has nothing to do with the defamation case he’s hearing, that doesn’t square with how keenly he and Konnech are interested in learning the name of the 3rd FBI confidential informant who was present in the room the night that Gregg Phillips was shown a remarkable hours long presentation involving over 30 terabytes of illegally transferred election data.
On top of every other weird thing going on in this case, Judge Hoyt seems to think he has the highest security classification in the nation, and is thus demanding that Gregg Phillips give him the name of this third person who is purported to be an FBI confidential informant.
Phillip’s reluctance to produce that person’s name in court to the judge in large part is the reason why he and Engelbrecht sit inside a Houston jail as you are reading this.
Phillips has stated it would be illegal for him to expose an FBI confidential informant and that it would place the person’s life in danger.
Another weird thing about this case: both Phillips and Engelbrecht made it clear in their testimony to the court that they currently do not now, nor did they ever have in their possession, any of the 30+ terabytes of data that is purported to have been downloaded from the Chinese server.
Konnech’s lawyers appeared to be taken aback by Phillip’s testimony that neither he nor Engelbrecht nor anyone associated with True the Vote ever had any of the supposedly ‘hacked’ and ‘stolen’ data in their possession.
Phillips testified that the data was at all times in the possession of a different FBI contractor named Mike Hasson, and it was Mike Hasson who later handed over this data to the FBI.
Phillips then very helpfully provides both Konnech’s lawyers and Judge Hoyt with the names of the FBI agents who took a report from him about his meeting with FBI confidential informant Mike Hasson. He even painstakingly spelled out the names of these two FBI Special Agents for the entire courtroom.
So Phillips testifies that he never had the Konnech data, Mike Hasson had it, and it was reported to him later when he was giving a report to the FBI that Hasson had handed the data over to the agency.
This brings up another interesting wrinkle. In attempting to learn who had exposed it’s criminal malfeasance, Konnech would obviously not get anywhere trying to sue the Federal Bureau of Investigation. How far would Konnech get in any federal court in demanding the agency cough up the name of it’s confidential informants? And assuming they managed to get the FBI to cooperate, Konnech would still have to get these informants to cooperate and spill the beans on how they came to discover the 1.8 million poll worker names on the Chinese server and downloaded it and brought it to the FBI. And of course, Konnech would then be very keenly interested in learning who at the FBI has possession of that data now and what exactly if anything are they doing with it? [As an aside, I can think of events pointing to one **recent thing** the FBI did with this data it got from its ever-elusive confidential informant, Mike Hasson, that would make Konnech and its lawyers exceedingly irate. Keep reading to find out what that was]
While Konnech wouldn’t get anywhere trying to sue the FBI or the DOJ for this information, it appears they have no problem whatsoever in suing True the Vote’s Gregg Phillips and Catherine Engelbrecht in their attempts to find out who exposed their illegal shenanigans. And Judge Hoyt seems especially eager to assist Konnech in this fishing expedition. This case has never been about any kind of real defamation claim; instead the claims of defamation are only a cover for what has been really going on.
Konnech knows they won’t get anywhere demanding answers from the FBI, which is why this current ludicrous lawsuit is engendering all this drama in a Houston courtroom. And which is also why Gregg and Catherine have been sitting in jail cells for three days now.
And let me end this column by dropping the $56,000 question:
If Phillips and Engelbrecht are telling the truth in their testimony, and they never had the 30+ terabytes in their hands, and this 30 terabytes of data went from Mike Hasson to the FBI…
…where exactly did the LA County prosecutor and the grand jury get the evidence they saw that led them to indict and arrest Eugene Yu if it **didn’t come from True the Vote**?
I’d give you three guesses, but you’re only going to need one, aren’t you?
Stay tuned. I have a feeling there will be more developments soon in this troubling and fascinating case.