By Wendi Strauch Mahoney
Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote (TTV) and OpSec founder Gregg Phillips were released from jail Sunday evening. The pair has been in jail since October 31 because they refused to give up their sources for information brought to them concerning Konnech, Inc.’s alleged breach of contract. As of Sunday afternoon, Engelbrecht and Phillips were still awaiting a decision from a judge in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, who asked Konnech’s attorneys to explain why Engelbrecht and Phillips should continue to sit in jail.
Release from jail
Konnech’s lawyers filed their request to keep them in jail on November 5, stating they have “no one but themselves to blame for their confinement.” They were ultimately ordered released from custody Sunday evening, reversing the lower court’s orders. Engelbrecht’s statement is below:
Konnech, Inc. v True the Vote, Inc, Gregg Phillips, and Catherine Engelbrecht is a civil case. Engelbrecht and Phillips assert that Konnech allegedly allowed for the storage of sensitive poll worker data in China. That they were put in jail for refusing to give up sources in a civil proceeding is “unprecedented,” according to TTV spokesperson Brian Glicklich’s November 5 interview with War Room host Steve Bannon.
Konnech, Inc. is an election technology company that owns election logistics software—one of which is PollChief. PollChief is used by governmental entities to “recruit, train and schedule poll workers; coordinate the distribution of equipment and supplies to polling places; and dispatch support personnel to address technical and other issues,” according to an affidavit signed by Eugene Yu on September 12, 2022. On October 4, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced the arrest of CEO Eugene Yu of Konnech, Inc, because he allegedly put sensitive poll worker information on a backbone server in China, a breach of contract. Yu was set to be arraigned on October 14 before the Superior Court of California in LA County on felony charges. Yu’s affidavit maintains Konnech has been “falsely and maliciously” accused of “enabl[ing] the Chinese Communist Party to breach U.S. elections.” Konnech says poll worker data was never stored outside the United States, according to an October 6 courtroom transcript.
Konnech, Inc: TTV Contacts The FBI Over National Security Threat
Engelbrecht and Phillips brought the information they found on Konnech to the FBI back in January 2021. They were cooperating with the FBI for a number of months when suddenly the FBI went dark. To this day, Engelbrecht does not understand why the FBI stopped cooperating. She says she has never done anything criminal.
October 12 texts released in her October 28 affidavit indicate that she and Phillips began to “hear chatter that the FBI was working with Konnech and against [them], and still trying to accuse them of crimes [they] did not commit” adding that they “operated in good faith with the Bureau and never did anything even approaching a crime.”
Fast forward to September 12, 2022, Konnech sought a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to keep Engelbrecht and Phillips from “using or disclosing data from Konnech’s protected computers without authorization.” Subsequent to that, the court asked Engelbrecht and Phillips to disclose to the court anyone who had access to the Konnech data.
Glicklich corroborates in the Bannon interview what Engelbrecht and Phillips stated at the August event called The Pit. Engelbrecht and Phillips organized The Pit to brief independent journalists and researchers on the information they had received on Konnech and its alleged connections to China. UncoverDC attended the event but was not given direct evidence of the sensitive data referenced in the meeting. Glicklich says Engelbrecht and Phillips “never saw the data being accessed, but they saw a presentation about it. They don’t know who did it and refused to identify who showed them the information.”
Engelbrecht: We Will Never Give Up Our Sources
UncoverDC spoke with Engelbrecht via secure chat on October 29, and she wrote, “Gregg and I have never betrayed anyone. The press is making it seem like we did.” A name was given to the court during the October 6 hearing by a TTV attorney because of insistence from Judge Hoyt. Neither Gregg nor Catherine were present at the hearing. Catherine told UncoverDC that one of their attorneys “gave up the name after the judge demanded he say it or be held in contempt of court. It was done without our consent or knowledge. The attorney is no longer representing us.” Michael Wynne is now the lead counsel and attorney representing True the Vote.
According to court documents, the judge seemed frustrated with “the lack of affidavit or information giving [him] anything that says the source is worthy of protection.” At one point, the judge stated he thinks the TTV attorney “may be played.” At that point, he demanded TTV attorneys give up the source’s name. According to investigative reporter Ivory Hecker, the judge also repeatedly rebuffed TTV attorneys’ attempts to present information on the case associated with Eugene Yu’s arrest.
Engelbrecht and Phillips also adamantly maintain they never hacked into a Konnech computer or took poll worker data. The transcript from the October 6 hearing seems to confirm that with Konnech’s statements.
1 of 4
However, the judge still questioned what data was given to the FBI by True the Vote. Engelbrecht supplied evidence of her contact with the FBI in an affidavit that contained “text messages between [her] and special agents of the FBI.” The text messages also indicate the receipt of three thumb drives with “open info queries.”
Judge Hoyt asked the TTV attorney, Brock Akers, whether he had seen evidence that “verified that any of the data was coming from China?” Akers replied he had not seen the evidence.
During The Pit, Gregg stated that a group of people came to him in Dallas in the third week of January 2021 and “showed him a database of 1.8 million American poll workers’ information. The group used open-source software Binary Edge to look at everything you want to know about a URL or IP address. They also showed him ports and exactly what was in them, all from a server that lives on the UNICOM backbone at a Chinese university in China.” Gregg explained that these individuals were able to access the data because the MongoDB open-source database “comes shipped with “password” as the password. They had never changed the password, so it “was open to anyone who wants to go in it.”
Included on the docket for the case is a document from Konnech disputing the “false and malicious claims True the Vote and its followers have made against Konnech.” Their disputes include claims that Konnech is not affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party. They also contend that Konnech “does not use default passwords” and “Konnech has never stored any customer data on Chinese servers.” The court documents do, however, show admission for having “formed a research and development subsidiary in China, Jinhua Konnech, in 2005 for the purpose of developing software for the K-12 education market.” The documents also dispute having “ballot counting software or being involved in the collection processing, tabulation or reporting of votes by any U.S. election authority.” Konnech also states in court documents it has no relationship with the Confucious Institute even though they were asked in 2006 to “develop a Chinese language learning website as a part of his work with the Confucious Institute at Michigan State.” Konnech lawyers state the project was “never funded.”
More at UncoverDC