By Nathan Layne
(Reuters) – The head of a Michigan election software company facing felony charges in California for allegedly storing poll worker data in China filed a motion on Thursday to dismiss the case, arguing the alleged conduct, even if true, is not criminal.
Eugene Yu, founder and CEO of Konnech Inc, has been accused of violating the company’s contract with Los Angeles County, which restricts the sharing of election workers’ personal information to citizens and permanent residents inside the United States. He was charged with grand theft by embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Yu’s arrest earlier this month has been hailed by some right-wing organizations focused on voter fraud as a vindication of their warnings about the vulnerability of U.S. election systems, including to hacking by overseas adversaries.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, which brought the charges, has said the investigation was triggered by a complaint from Gregg Phillips of True the Vote, a Texas nonprofit and prominent purveyor of debunked voter-fraud claims.
In a filing to the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, Yu’s lawyers asked for the complaint to be dismissed, arguing that prosecutors had wrongly sought to criminalize a run-of-the-mill contract dispute.
“This is a deeply misguided prosecution,” attorneys Gary Lincenberg, Thomas Reichert, and Alexis Wiseley wrote. “This is a civil breach of contract case that has been dressed up in a costume that doesn’t fit.”
The spokesman for the district attorney declined to comment on a pending motion.
The filing is the latest development in a months-long saga between Konnech, a small company of about 20 people which makes software to manage payroll and scheduling for pollworkers, and the principals of True the Vote.
Phillips and Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of the organization, have made a series of incendiary claims about Konnech and Yu. They alleged the company was holding sensitive personal information on some 1.8 million poll workers on a server in China, and accused Yu, who immigrated to the U.S. decades ago, of being a Chinese operative.
Konnech has said the allegations are false and last month it sued Phillips, Engelbrecht and the organization for defamation.
That case is playing out in a federal court in Texas, with a hearing scheduled on Thursday on whether Phillips and Engelbrecht should be held in contempt for not complying with a temporary restraining order put in place last month.
Lawyers for Phillips and Engelbrecht did not respond to a request for comment.
(reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Chris Reese)