An Arizona state judge on Thursday ordered that the Arizona “audit” contractor Cyber Ninjas pay $50,000 in fines every day until it provided documents that the Arizona Republic newspaper had successfully sought in a public records request.
The audit firm was the belle of the Trumpworld ball for several months as the former president’s supporters looked to the audit Maricopa County’s votes for non-existent proof that Donald Trump’s second term had been stolen from him. Volunteer auditors and lawmakers trekked from around the country to the audit site, in an arena on the county fairgrounds, either to work on the effort to take notes in hopes of emulating it back home.
The hearing Thursday, according to the Arizona Republic’s report, was a mess: Jack Wilenchik, the attorney for Cyber Ninjas, tried to remove himself from the case, saying that he had not been paid, but Maricopa Superior Court Judge John Hannah wasn’t hearing it.
In August, Hannah had ordered Cyber Ninjas to turn over records from the Republican-controlled state Senate’s audit to the newspaper, and he found the company in contempt Thursday for failing to do so. Three days prior, the paper noted, an appeals court ordered Cyber Ninjas to pay $31,000 in legal fees for the Republic.
The newspaper initially sought a $1,000 daily fine for the missing records, but Hannah bumped that up 50-fold to $50,000.
In the same hearing, Wilenchik referred to Doug Logan — the conspiracy–theory promoting CEO of the company — as the “former” CEO. The judge said that added “to the body of facts suggesting here that there is an intention to leave the Cyber Ninjas entity as an empty piñata for all of us to swing at.”
Cyber Ninjas did appear to be emptying out Thursday. “Doug Logan and the rest of the employees have been let go and Cyber Ninjas is being shut down,” a spokesperson for the company told The Guardian separately. (It’s unclear how many people worked at the firm besides Logan in the first place.)
At several points, according to the Republic’s report, the hearing grew “awkward.”
After Wilenchik complained about Hannah’s decision, for example, the lawyer apparently pointed out that the judge was smiling.
“I’m smiling because I’m thinking of the accusations against me that you made in the motion to recuse me for cause that you did not appeal,” Hannah responded. “Where you said I’m biased against conservatives and, on information and belief, a Democrat. I smile every time I think about it because I’m not a Democrat.”
Separately, when Wilenchik asked the judge to say what order specifically Cyber Ninjas had violated, the judge accused him of trolling.
“Mr. Wilenchik you’re, you really, you are trolling me, and it’s getting very close to direct contempt,” Hannah said.
‘Lack of Understanding’
The contempt order came a day after Maricopa County, the target of the audit, responded to Cyber Ninjas’ final report with a step-by-step fact-check of its own, finding egregious errors and falsehoods in the Cyber Ninjas report.
“Our analysis found that Cyber Ninjas made faulty or inaccurate conclusions about more than 53,000 ballots in 22 different categories,” the county’s report stated.
The Cyber Ninjas report was indeed recognized as a mess from the day it came out, but the county’s rebuttal Wednesday offered hard numbers.
Auditors asserted that more than 20,000 people may have improperly voted from a prior address, but the county found several flaws in the analysis: For one thing, a simple change of address does not automatically disqualify a voter. The audit contractor also analyzed only voters’ names and dates of birth, but these are often shared by multiple voters.
Also, the company counted P.O. boxes among those voters who changed address, even though these do not determine residency as “it is not possible for a voter to move to a P.O. Box,” the report noted.
“Faulty data analysis and lack of understand of federal and state laws appear to have resulted in Cyber Ninjas incorrectly claiming thousands of legally registered voters may have cast ballots illegally,” the county reported.