Judge backs penalties against county in voting machine case

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A judge in Pennsylvania has recommended that the state Supreme Court issue civil contempt penalties against a Republican-majority county government that this summer secretly allowed a third party to copy data from voting machines used in the 2020 election, which were lost by former President Donald Trump.

The 77-page report by Commonwealth Court President Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer, issued late Friday, says the July inspection and copying of computer data from machines rented by Fulton County was a willful violation of a court order was to prevent evidence from being falsified.

She recommended to judges that the county be “involved in annoying, persistent and malicious behavior” based on the actions of Republican commissioners Stuart Ulsh and Randy Bunch in their lawsuit against the State Department over whether to have an inspection by another in 2021. being outgroup meant that the machines could no longer be used.

Cohn Jubelirer, an elected Republican, recommended that the district be asked to pay a portion of the state’s legal fees and that the Dominion Voting Systems Inc. machines in question be turned over to a third party for safekeeping at the district’s expense.

Messages seeking comment were left Friday and Saturday for Pottstown Attorney Thomas J. Carroll, who represents Fulton County, Ulsh and Bunch. Messages were left for Ulsh on Saturday and Bunch didn’t answer the phone.

The judge noted that during a three-day hearing earlier this month, Ulsh and Bunch invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination “in response to the vast majority of questions put to them at the direct inquiry.”

Cohn Jubelirer’s report was commissioned by the state Supreme Court after attorneys for acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman sought a contempt order. The motion for the injunction was based on Bunch and Ulsh’s disclosure in a separate lawsuit in September that Speckin Forensics LLC of Lansing, Michigan had copied hard drives from Democracy Suite 5.5A voting machines that Fulton County had leased from Dominion in July.

The State Department ordered the county to stop using its rented Dominion machines after Bunch and Ulsh gave access to a group, Wake TSI, to help Trump’s failed efforts to reverse his defeat. Fulton County, Bunch, and Ulsh sued to contest the state’s order that the machines could not be used in future elections, and Fulton County has since used other machines.

“Every chain of custody has been broken and it is now impossible to determine what the condition of the Dominion dialing equipment was immediately following the Wake TSI inspection,” wrote Cohn Jubelirer. “That said, the Speckin inspection rendered dialing equipment unreliable as evidence of what Wake TSI did, and it is impossible to reverse that effect.”

The State Department had told counties that they were not permitted to provide others with such access to voting machines. Ulsh and Bunch were close to allowing a third group, Envoy Sage LLC, to inspect the machines in January when the state Supreme Court put it on hold. The inspection, scheduled for January, should include computers, electronic ballot books, ballot scanners and possibly more.

A legal battle over Envoy Sage’s inspection and the state order banning outside access was scheduled for a hearing in the Supreme Court last month before the State Department briefed judges on Speckin’s inspection and sought penalties. The Supreme Court took the matter off its calendar and ordered Cohn Jubelirer to investigate.

Cohn Jubelirer said the judges should not grant Chapman’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit that Fulton County, Ulsh and Bunch have pending against her. Instead, Cohn told Jubelirer that while the litigation is ongoing, all facts relating to the machine inspections should be “conclusively established” in Chapman’s favor.

Rural Fulton County is predominantly Republican and gave Trump more than 85% of his vote in 2020.

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