The Volokh Conspiracy

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L.A. County D.A.'s Office Drops Charges Against Konnech


[UPDATE Jan. 27, 2024: L.A. County has agreed to pay Yu $5 million to settle a lawsuit arising out of the prosecution.]

I blogged about the charges on Oct. 6 ("Sometimes the Conspiracy Theorists Might Have Something of a Point: The Konnech Controversy"), but on Nov. 9 the D.A.'s office dropped the charges:

In an abrupt reversal, Los Angeles County has dismissed charges against the chief executive of an election software company, marking the end of a case that prominent election deniers cited as evidence of foul play in American elections.

Eugene Yu, CEO of the Michigan-based firm Konnech, was charged in mid October with illegally storing the personal information of poll workers on Chinese servers, a violation of its contract with LA County. Konnech has provided its PollChief software to cities and counties across the country, including a $2.9 million contract with Los Angeles County….

"We are concerned about both the pace of the investigation and the potential bias in the presentation and investigation of the evidence," spokesperson Tiffiny Blacknell said in a statement. The county did indicate that it hasn't ruled out refiling the charges after reviewing the evidence, saying it would "assemble a new team, with significant cyber security experience to determine whether any criminal activity occurred."

I tried to figure out more about what was going on, and couldn't. (Recall that the L.A. County D.A., George Gascon, is generally a man of the Left, so that's why his prosecuting the CEO of Konnech, who had been targeted from the Right by True the Vote, seemed so noteworthy.) There is a bit of a follow-up in a Nov. 16 L.A. Times article (paywalled), but it doesn't seem to reveal much; here's an excerpt:

Blacknell's statement indicated that office leadership found problems with the evidence after the arrest was announced.

"During the course of this prosecution, upper-level management became aware of irregularities in how the case was presented," she said.

In a filing seeking to dismiss the case that was set to go before a judge Nov. 10, [defense lawyer Gary] Lincenberg wrote that the district attorney's allegations were "at best, a civil breach of contract claim." Lincenberg argued that the entire filing rested on the provision in the 150-page contract between L.A. County and Konnech that required poll worker data be kept on U.S. servers.

"These facts do not make out an embezzlement charge, and the complaint should be dismissed," Lincenberg wrote. He added that prosecutors suggested that "Mr. Yu can be prosecuted for embezzlement based on Konnech's failure to comply with a data security provision of its contract with the County Registrar."