LA prosecutor on election software firm case claims charges dropped over DA’s political concerns

The Los Angeles DA allegedly dropped the criminal charges against Konnech CEO Eugene Yu because he was afraid of appearing to be aligned with President Trump, according to the prosecutor's complaint.
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A lead prosecutor on a case involving the CEO of an election software company has filed a government tort complaint against Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón for allegedly dismissing criminal charges improperly against the company executive for political purposes.

The prosecution of the head of an election software company used by election offices across the country that began in October 2022 was ended about a month later because of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s concerns about his political image, according to the lead prosecutor’s complaint against the DA.

On Wednesday, Eric Neff, a prosecutor in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, filed a lawsuit against the DA for allegedly improperly dismissing criminal charges against Eugene Yu, the founder and CEO of the Michigan-based election software company Konnech.

Yu was arrested in October 2022 on charges of grand theft and embezzlement of more than $100,000 when his company stored thousands of Los Angeles County election workers’ personal information on the server based in China, in alleged violation of Konnech’s $2.9 million, five-year contract with the county.

Konnech distributes its PollChief software to what it previously claimed were "thousands of Election Offices across North America." The company’s website has since been updated, changing it to simply “Trusted by Election Offices across North America.”

The software is designed to manage election-worker payroll, assignments, and communications, and has been used in Wayne County, DeKalb County, Ga., and Fairfax County, Va.

The charging document, filed in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, claimed that a project manager in August "wrote that any employee for Chinese contractors working on PollChief software had 'superadministration' privileges for all PollChief clients."

The project manager reportedly described the decision as a "huge security issue." He later stressed to workers at the company the "need to ensure the security privacy and confidentiality [of] our client data." 

The felony complaint also alleged that Konnech employees “sent personal identifying information of Los Angeles County election workers to third-party software developers who assisted with creating and fixing” the company’s PollChief software.

In November 2022, the DA dropped the criminal charges against Yu, citing concerns about both the “pace of the investigation” and “potential bias in the presentation” of the charges.

After the charges were dropped, the DA’s office said it had “assembled a new team with significant cyber security experience to determine whether any criminal activity occurred” and “engaged an independent expert to continue to review the evidence.” However, no new charges were brought after that announcement.

In his complaint filed Wednesday, Neff noted that following Yu’s arrest, former President Donald Trump had encouraged Gascón in his prosecution of the CEO. This was apparently concerning to Gascón, who is known for his progressive soft-on-crime policies.

“On or about October 17, 2022, DA Gascon was overwhelmingly concerned that since he had inadvertently gained Mr. Trump’s support, the outlook of such support by prosecuting Mr. Yu would impact his stance and popularity politically,” according to Neff’s complaint.

In January, Los Angeles County approved a $5 million settlement with Yu after he alleged the DA’s office violated his rights in arresting and charging him in the criminal case, harming his reputation and business.

Yu's attorney, Dean Z. Pamphilis told NBCLA in a statement following the settlement, "The Los Angeles DA’s arrest of Mr. Yu based on utterly false charges -- charges the DA dropped 5 weeks later -- and the resulting publicity cost Mr. Yu his life savings and Konnech over 50 percent of its customers."

"Now, just four months after we sued on behalf of Mr. Yu and Konnech, Los Angeles County has agreed to settle the lawsuit, paying $5 million and agreeing to publicly proclaim Mr. Yu’s innocence," he added

During the county Board of Supervisors meeting that approved the settlement, Neff asked about the investigation into Yu and Konnech during public comment, saying, "Have all the investigations into this matter been completed? If so, have you read them in their entirety, has County Counsel? Are you aware of their findings? And if all internal investigations have not been completed, why is this agreement being proposed to you now? Does it have to do with George Gascón's re-election campaign calendar?"

Neff also claims in his complaint that Gascón retaliated against him after he complained about the dismissal. Neff was placed on administrative leave for nearly a year-and-a-half and was the subject of an internal investigation, which concluded last month and determined that he did not commit misconduct and would not face disciplinary action.

However, after reinstatement earlier this month, Neff was moved to a less desirable assignment within the DA’s office, which his complaint said is “commonly known in the DA’s Office to punish prosecutors where [Deputy District Attorneys] are not favored by management.”

Neff’s complaint says he suffered “economic damages” and “lost wages,” and that he is seeking “penalties, damages, attorney’s fees, expert fees, and costs as provided by law.”

Neff’s attorney, Tom Yu, told Just the News in a statement on Thursday, “As a result of retaliating against Mr. Neff, George Gascon has ruined the career and reputation of a dedicated prosecutor who was prosecuting a case that protects the essence of our country’s voting system. I look forward to seeking justice for Mr. Neff and to hold everyone involved accountable.”

The Los Angeles DA’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment before press time.