Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer at an Oct. 20, 2022, event in Phoenix. Photo by Gage Skidmore (modified) | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer is suing Kari Lake and her campaign for defamation, after enduring a continuous onslaught of vitriol and false claims from her and her followers.
Richer, a Republican, has been one of Lake’s favorite targets as she continues to claim that the 2022 governor’s race was stolen from her, in the same fashion that she claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen from her political idol, Donald Trump.
“For the last seven months, I have been subjected to constant harassment, intimidation, and threats to my and my family’s lives because the defendants in this case were spreading falsehoods about me, my work, and our elections,” Richer said in a statement. “While I followed the law and respected the will of millions of Arizona voters after the 2022 election, the defendants chose to engage in a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation, threaten my livelihood, and rob me and my loved ones of our safety and well-being.”
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Lake, also a Republican, lost the Arizona gubernatorial race last November to Democrat Katie Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes.
On Thursday, Richer, in his personal capacity, filed a defamation suit in Maricopa County Superior court against Lake, her campaign and the Save Arizona Fund, a dark money nonprofit that Lake controls and that has raised untold sums of money to fund her legal efforts to overturn the 2022 election.
“Since the November 2022 election, Defendants have repeatedly and falsely accused Richer of causing Lake’s electoral defeat, including by claiming that Richer — a registered Republican — sabotaged the election to prevent Republican candidates, including Lake, from winning,” Daniel Maynard, Richer’s attorney, wrote in the complaint.
The suit specifically focuses on Lake’s claim that Richer “intentionally printed 19-inch images on 20-inch ballots to sabotage the 2022 general election,” resulting in 300,000 “illegal, invalid, phony or bogus” early ballots being counted in Maricopa County.
Although Lake has brought this claim to the Maricopa County Superior Court, the Arizona Court of Appeals and the Arizona Supreme Court, none of those courts found her evidence convincing, and the claims were all dismissed.
“Courts at every level of the Arizona judiciary have concluded that Defendants have no evidence to support their wild claims,” Maynard wrote. “But Defendants continued to spread these egregious and harmful falsities to further their own agendas — and line their own pockets — at Richer’s expense.”
In the suit, Richer points to numerous examples of Lake and her campaign making false claims about him through posts to various social media accounts, on podcasts hosted by Donald Trump, Jr., and the “My Pillow Guy” Mike Lindell, and during speeches, including at Lake’s Jan. 29 “Save Arizona Rally.”
During that rally, Lake said that Richer intentionally printed the 2022 general election ballots incorrectly so that the tabulators would jam, causing issues at the polls on Election Day in Maricopa County.
“Well, these guys are really, really terrible at running elections but I found out they’re really good at lying,” Lake said, during the rally, of Richer and Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates.
Lake’s campaign had told its supporters not to cast early ballots and instead only vote at polling sites on Election Day, and the printer problems at some voting locations disproportionately affected GOP voters as a result.
Although there were thousands of incorrectly printed ballots that could not be read by polling site tabulators, all of those ballots were ultimately counted at the county’s central election facility in the days following the election.
It’s obvious that Lake must know her claims are false, Maynard wrote in the suit, because Richer isn’t even in charge of early ballots returned on Election Day. While Richer’s office is responsible for early voting, Election Day voting is overseen by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
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Lake has also claimed that 300,000 illegal early ballots were cast in Maricopa County on Election Day. The total number of early ballots received that day was 298,942, indicating that Lake claims every single early ballot turned in that day was illegally cast.
In the suit, Richer accuses Lake and her campaign of defaming him to garner donations, pointing out that many of Lake’s claims on social media and emails about Richer’s supposed misdeeds included a link to the Save Arizona Fund site, and solicited donations.
Not only has Lake made false claims, she’s also continually insulted Richer on social media, calling him an “incompetent, corrupt fool,” and a “reprehensible human being,” Maynard wrote.
“While Defendants have raised money and benefited from their defamatory falsehoods regarding Richer, they have caused Richer substantial reputational, financial, physical, emotional, and professional harm,” he wrote in the lawsuit.
One commenter on the Save Arizona Rally video wrote that “someone needs to be dismembered” for the alleged election fraud, while others wrote comments filled with expletives, saying Richer should be jailed or executed.
He’s also faced daily hate, in the form of emails, direct messages on Twitter, voicemails and in person confrontations, Maynard wrote.
Richer says in the suit that he and his wife have spent thousands of dollars to install new security features in their home and that local law enforcement now do regular patrols at Richer’s home and his and his wife’s workplaces.
“Defendants’ defamatory statements have damaged Richer’s reputation by cutting him off from Republican networks and donors who once supported his career and future ambitions for elected office,” Richer says in the suit. “Predictably, this decline in his career and prospects and constant calls for his resignation, prosecution and even execution have taken a toll on Richer’s physical and mental health and required him to spend time and money on additional medical treatment and medication.”
Richer asked the court for a jury trial to award him with compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a statement from Lake admitting that her claims about him are false and the removal of all false messages from her websites and social media accounts.
“I firmly believe in the protections afforded to all of us under the First Amendment, but when people harm their fellow citizens through defamation, they should be held accountable,” Richer said in his statement. “In America, no one is above the law, and I am standing up for that principle and seeking justice for what my family and I have been put through.”
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