On Saturday afternoon, Votebeat’s Jessica Huseman said she had a story that had “everything—contempt, FBI informants, an alleged poisoning, drug cartels, right-wing social media, communists.” The story began, according to court documents, in a Dallas hotel room months ago.
Her piece involves a chaotic day of testimony regarding the organization True the Vote, and why it ended in two of its leaders jailed after being found in contempt of court.
Huseman said that the civil suit filed by poll worker management software company Konnech concerns “depending on who’s describing it—a right-wing elections group allegedly defaming a small technology company, or a small technology company whose alleged security flaws were exposed by a right-wing elections group.”
The hearing was in Houston, but it revolved around a conversation supposedly held in a Dallas hotel room where the organization was reportedly given proof that a piece of poll worker management software called Konnech was storing the personal data of millions of poll workers on a server in China. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt wants True the Vote leaders Catherine Engelbrecht and Gregg Phillips to produce the names and contact information of the people they say were at that meeting, which they’ve talked about in interviews.
Phillips described the meeting in a podcast, explaining that he met the men at a hotel room in Dallas, where they “put towels under the doors … (like) some kind of a James Bond kind of thing,” and then hacked into a Konnech server.
They have continued to insist, without proof, that one of the people in that room was a confidential FBI informant. They named another, Mike Hasson, but have asked the court to seal a photo submitted as evidence by Konnech, in case it is not the person that was in the hotel room that they believe is Mike Hasson.
Konnech alleges that the accusations have caused the company’s CEO, Eugene Yu, to flee his home and damaged the company’s business.
Phillips and Engelbrecht claimed that Yu was an agent of the Communist Party of China. They continue to argue that turning over the names of the people at that Dallas meeting would subject those people to doxxing and harassment.
Hoyt, a Reagan appointee, gave them until 9 a.m. today to comply. This morning, federal marshals escorted the two out of the courtroom and into a holding cell. They’ll remain in jail, he said, until they release the name of the second man they say was present in that Dallas hotel room.
Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She’s written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.