L.A. County D.A. to pay $5 million in civil rights case over bungled election conspiracy prosecution

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The L.A. County district attorney’s office will pay $5 million to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought by the head of a tiny Michigan software company that became the focus of a bungled 2022 prosecution based largely on the word of conspiracy theorists.

Eugene Yu, chief executive of Konnech, sued Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón last September alleging civil rights violations and negligence stemming from an October 2022 indictment on charges that Yu was illegally storing L.A. County poll workers’ personal information overseas.

The case against Yu drew praise from former President Trump and others who questioned the results of the 2020 election. For months prior to the charges, Yu faced allegations he was working for the Chinese government to manipulate U.S. ballot boxes. The lead agitators, Texas-based True The Vote, never put forth evidence of their claims.

Less than six weeks after Gascón called a press conference to announce charges against Yu, the case fell apart.

Prosecutors dismissed the charges after admitting that True The Vote co-founder Gregg Phillips provided a tip that sparked the inquiry into Yu and also testified before the grand jury that produced the indictment. The group’s election-related claims had been reviewed by several state attorney generals and the FBI with no charges filed, but L.A. County prosecutors decided to pursue the case anyway.

The district attorney’s office subsequently issued a statement saying it was concerned about the pace of the investigation and potential bias in the presentation of evidence. A spokeswoman did not elaborate on the nature or source of the bias. The lead prosecutor, Eric Neff, was placed on administrative leave a week later.

Yu’s civil attorney, Dean Pamphilis, called the charges “utterly false.”

“The resulting publicity cost Mr. Yu his life savings and Konnech over 50% of its customers,” Pamphilis said. “Mr. Yu is extremely pleased that his innocence has now been publicly confirmed, and he and Konnech look forward to start to recover from the significant losses which they suffered.”

The settlement was approved by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors Tuesday without discussion. Under the terms of the agreement, the district attorney’s office will no longer pursue charges against Yu and will join him in a petition to a judge for a finding of factual innocence.

Neff spoke during the Board of Supervisors meeting and questioned whether the timing of the settlement was intended to impact Gascón’s re-election campaign, though he offered nothing to support that claim. Neff has not responded to requests for comment from The Times. He remains on administrative leave, according to a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about personnel matters.

In the lawsuit, Yu claimed that the bungled charges nearly crippled his business. Election officials in large municipalities including Detroit and Fairfax County, Va., cut ties with Konnech within days of Gascón’s initial news conference, according to Pamphlis.

Ironically, Konnech’s largest client remains L.A. County. In 2022, a spokesman for the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder’s office said prosecutors had never shared evidence of any malfeasance. L.A. County is under contract to make use of Konnech’s Poll Chief software through the 2024 presidential election.

Times Staff Writers Sarah D. Wire and Rebecca Ellis contributed to this report.

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