20 September 2014

An epic legal battle now rages between Karl Rove and Ohio election rights attorneys. The question is whether the public has the right to see full transcripts of a court deposition that could shed explosive new light on the bitterly contested presidential election of 2004.



The deposition came from the late Michael Connell, Rove's IT guru. Connell died in a mysterious plan crash in December 2008, one month after he spoke under oath to election protection attorney Clifford O. Arnebeck. Connell had implanted the state-contracted software used to compute Ohio's electronic voting tabulations during the contest between Bush and John Kerry.



On December 10, 2010, attorneys in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville Neighborhood Association case moved to release the Connell transcript in an ongoing legal struggle with Rove and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The King-Lincoln case was filed in 2006 by attorney Arnebeck alleging civil rights violations against blacks, young voters and others in Ohio's 2004 election process.



Connell's November 3, 2008 deposition in Cleveland concerned his role in the 2004 election and whether or not he was being threatened by Rove. Just over a month later on December 19, 2008, Connell died in the mysterious crash of his small plane near his Akron, Ohio, home. Suspicions of foul play surround the accident.



The Connell deposition has been sealed since his death. During the closing days of the 2010 election, King-Lincoln attorneys sought the deposition of Karl Rove in connection with his activities involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in all Ohio elections since 2000.



Rove and Chamber attorneys, as well as the Ohio Attorney General's office, claimed that there was no connection between Connell's deposition and more recent activities involving Rove and the Chamber.



Connell's attorney, James L. Ervin, represented Connell at the deposition and also represented Connell's estate. He filed papers with the court asking for a 30-day extension of time to file a response to the court on December 27, 2010 regarding the opening of Connell's deposition.



According to Ervin, "Mr. Connell's deposition is comprised of questions, answers, and topics that are privileged and/or confidential and are reflected as such by being designated 'sealed.'" No part of Connell's deposition has of yet been made public.



Arnebeck told how Connell described what he did: "One, he integrated voter data files with the vote tabulation process in the Ohio Secretary of State's office in the 2004 election and two, he broadened the accessibility to this information, including facilitating its appearance on a mirror site at the SmartTech offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee."



"His testimony provided facts of a general nature. He did not, as suggested by his counsel, reveal or discuss anything that could be fairly described as a trade secret or an expert opinion," Arnebeck asserted.



In the spring and summer prior to Connell's deposition, contacts were made on behalf of Connell with both U.S. Representatives John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich in an attempt to have Connell testify before Congress regarding his role in the 2004 election.



Memorandum to U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich [PDF]



Ervin's motion before the court states: "During calendar year 2009, Mr. Connell's businesses, New Media Communications and GovTech Solutions, came under new ownership, and Mr. Connell's Estate was probated."



These pleadings before the court may offer insight into who exactly owns Connell's election computer businesses. Ervin's motion states: "because the deposition transcript addresses issues that constituted privilege and/or proprietary matters, the new ownership of Connell's former businesses may have an interest in the deposition transcripts and may be the owners of the transcript."



Ervin concludes "Decisions must be made as to who owns Mr. Connell's 2008 deposition transcript...." This same line of argument has been used to allow private vendors to use secret proprietary source code in election software.



In a democratic society, the people should own Connell's deposition. Karl Rove should testify under oath about the electronic machinery Connell devised to link Ohio's 2004 real-time vote count to an obscure company in Chattanooga, Tennessee. That company was SmarTech, which according to public records, was hosting a website that was operating out of the White House on that election night.



Says Arnebeck: "Mr. Connell's testimony is important to the plaintiffs and the public because it reveals how those seeking to steal the 2004 Presidential election in the State of Ohio, led by Karl Rove, were better able to do so through the utilization of these integrated data files and more accessible tabulation processes. SmarTech was simultaneously serving the electronic data processes for the George W. Bush presidential campaign in that election."



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Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman's four books on election protection are at freepress.org, where this article was first published. Disclosure: Fitrakis serves as co-counsel with Arnebeck in the King-Lincoln case and was at Connell's deposition.