Kari Lake gives up and won’t defend herself in Stephen Richer’s defamation lawsuit

Kari Lake at a campaign event in Scottsdale on Oct. 19, 2022. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Kari Lake won’t defend herself in Stephen Richer’s defamation case against her. In doing so, she has essentially admitted fault, even though she claims she hasn’t. 

While Lake tried to spin the news as her refusal to participate in what she called a political “witch hunt,” she missed the court’s Monday deadline to respond to Richer’s claims, meaning that she and the other defendants — her husband, her campaign and a nonprofit company that raised money on her behalf —  defaulted on the case and have “conceded legal liability” for defaming Richer. 

“After months of doubling down and defending their lies across Arizona, in the media, and on social media, when push came to shove, the Defendants decided to completely back down and concede that their lies were just that: lies,” Richer said in a statement. 

Lake’s lawyers, Tim La Sota and Jennifer Wright, did not respond to a request for comment, except to point the Arizona Mirror to a video that Lake posted on the social media site X, formerly Twitter. 

In the video, Lake did not address any of the claims in the suit or in Richer’s latest filing, in which he accused her lawyers of refusing to meet or discuss scheduling in the case in an effort to stall. 

Instead, she lashed out at Richer and his “East Coast lawyers,” who she said were only aiming to interfere with her ongoing campaign for U.S. Senate. 

Richer filed the defamation suit last June, after dealing with months of unfounded claims from Lake and her supporters that he was somehow involved in election fraud in Maricopa County’s 2022 election, in which Lake lost her bid for Arizona governor to Democrat Katie Hobbs. 

That was months prior to Lake’s announcement in October that she would run for U.S. Senate. 

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. 

Lake made those same claims in her court challenge to the results of the 2022 election, and she lost that case at every level of the Arizona court system, with the judges finding that her team never supplied evidence that fraud, malfeasance or maladministration lost her the election.

La Sota and Wright on Tuesday filed a motion asking for a default judgment and requesting a jury to “adjudicate factual disputes.” But Phoenix personal injury lawyer and frequent Lake critic Tom Ryan explained to the Mirror that, when they defaulted, Lake’s lawyers missed their chance to dispute the facts of the case. 

“You don’t get to do that,” Ryan said of the request. He added that a default in a case like this is tantamount to “unconditional surrender.”

Ryan said the only thing Lake and her attorneys can legally dispute now is the amount of damages they will owe Richer. 

One of the attorneys representing Richer, Jared Davidson with Protect Democracy, told the Mirror that Lake has been given ample time to prove her claims about Richer and has failed to do so for a simple and obvious reason: They are false.  

“Let me be clear: As opaque as the legal filing is today and confusing or colorful as the video spin may be, the consequences of this filing could not be clearer,” Davidson said. “Ms. Lake is conceding that she had no evidence to defend against our claims that she defamed our client.”

Far from admitting guilt, Lake accused the “political elite” of engaging in “lawfare” against her, comparing her situation to that of former President Donald Trump, who is in the midst of three criminal court cases

“They know they can’t beat either of us fair and square, so they hit us with lawsuits to keep us tied up and off the campaign trail,” Lake said. 

Lake even doubled down on her claims in the video, saying that the suit was a continued attempt to interfere with the 2024 election. 

“By participating in this lawsuit, it would only serve to legitimize this perversion of our legal system and allow bad actors to interfere in our upcoming election,” she said. “So, I won’t be taking part. Instead, I will focus on the issues that matter to the people of Arizona.” 

Lake’s statements in the video are a sharp turn from a post on social media just a couple of months ago that she was looking forward to the discovery of evidence in the case. 

Ryan thinks that the discovery process, in which both sides would have to provide information pertinent to the case to the other side, including private communications like text messages between Lake and others, is exactly why she and her lawyers chose to default. 

“They’re trying to avoid their duty of disclosure to Richer,” he said, adding that he believes they were doing it “unartfully.” 

Ryan predicted that Lake and her lawyers will be sanctioned for their actions, and that Lake will likely be ordered to participate in the discovery and disclosure process even with a default judgment. 

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to show evidence that she and her co defendants have caused real harm,” Davidson said. “We’ll have a compelling presentation that will hopefully send a message that, when you defame individuals, and especially election administrators and public officials, there are real consequences.”

Davidson would not say how much Richer is looking to obtain in damages.  

“Because of their actions, my family and I have faced an endless barrage of threats — including calls for our execution — I have lost close personal relationships, and I have had my reputation irreparably damaged,” Richer said in his statement. “I have said from the beginning that no one is above the rule of law and today further validates that belief. I look forward to entering the damages phase of this case.”

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