After a chaotic day of testimony on Thursday, a federal judge in Texas found Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips — known as leaders of the group True the Vote — in contempt of court. They are facing accusations of defamation and computer crimes from a company at the center of a viral right-wing social media campaign engineered by the conservative voting organization.
The judge informed the pair they would face jail time if they do not comply with the terms of a court order by Monday at 9 a.m.
“I expect both defendants to be present,” said U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt, a Ronald Reagan appointee, looking at their table. Marshals, he said, would be ready to arrest them.
Thursday’s finding of contempt was the latest in a string of twists in the civil suit filed in September by Konnech, a Michigan-based company that provides poll worker management software to elections offices.
In filings and testimony, the basic facts and plot lines have shifted from week to week, often producing unexplained contradictions. True the Vote’s telling involves a lengthy middle-of-the-night hotel rendezvous, double-crossing federal agents, confidential informants, and security threats on two continents.
Konnech’s lawsuit, on the other hand, alleges that True the Vote’s baseless and racist accusations against the company’s CEO, Eugene Yu, forced him and his family to flee their home in fear for their lives and damaged the company’s business. Meanwhile, Yu was arrested and charged by the Los Angeles district attorney on allegations of storing government data in China, in breach of its contract, that appear similar to at least some of the allegations True the Vote has made, and Los Angeles officials have said they received an initial tip from Phillips.
For years, Engelbrecht and Phillips have come under fire for promoting election conspiracy theories while offering scant evidence to support them. But their current campaign against Konnech is forcing them to back up what they’ve said since August on far-right social networks and platforms in the more skeptical setting of a federal courtroom.
See here for the previous update. It’s impossible to convey how chaotic this all was without excerpting huge portions of the story, so just click over and read the whole thing. I have no idea what happens next – as far as the near future goes, either Engelbrecht and Phillips will be spending some amount of time in the federal pokey or they will finally give up the evidence they’ve been required to present – but what is clear is that these people are not operating on the same plane of reality as the rest of us. There have always been people like that in the world, but they used to mostly inhabit the fringes. Now they’re much more mainstream, and there’s no obvious precedent for any of this. I suspect we have not reached the pinnacle of the craziness here yet. The Chron has more.