Dominion files defamation suit v. Sidney Powell seeking $1.3 billion

Dominion files defamation suit v. Sidney Powell seeking $1.3 billion

  • Dominion Voting Systems has filed a defamation suit against the pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell, seeking $1.3 billion in damages.
  • Powell, a former lawyer for President Donald Trump’s campaign, has pushed a debunked conspiracy theory that the election technology company falsified results in the 2020 presidential election.
  • Dominion’s new lawsuit outlines numerous falsehoods Powell made in her election lawsuits and public statements about the election and Dominion’s nonexistent involvement in faking the results.
  • The voting technology company alleges her conspiracy theories were all the more damaging because they were amplified by Trump and right-wing media outlets.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit Friday against pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell seeking $1.3 billion in damages.

For months, Powell pushed a false conspiracy theory alleging that Dominion’s election technology had helped falsify the results of the 2020 presidential election to “switch” votes from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden.

Her convoluted, and debunked, theory alleged Dominion was secretly in cahoots with a rival election technology, Smartmatic, and had links to the regime of now-dead Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

“Far from being created in Venezuela to rig elections for a now-deceased Venezuelan dictator, Dominion was founded in Toronto for the purpose of creating a fully audit-able paper-based vote system that would empower people with disabilities to vote independently on verifiable paper ballots,” Dominion’s lawsuit argues.

Smartmatic has also said it will pursue litigation against election conspiracy theorists and media organizations that gave them a platform.

Powell was one of the faces of the Trump campaign’s legal team in November, but Trump kicked her off the team after she floated her conspiracy theory at a press conference alongside attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis. Giuliani and Ellis remained on the campaign’s legal team, even as both continued to spread falsehoods about the election and Giuliani spread many of the same theories as Powell.

Despite being purged from Trump’s “Elite Strike Force,” Powell used her false theories as the premise of four federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election. All of them failed and have now resulted in motions for her to be disbarred.

Dominion’s 124-page defamation lawsuit — running nearly 2,000 pages with exhibits — filed in federal court in Washington, DC, outlines how Powell repeatedly spread lies about the company, flying in the face of evidence from election certification and security authorities and courts that found her claims meritless.

The voting technology company says it arrived at the $1.3 billion figure by adding up the value of the contracts at risk because of the disinformation, punitive damages from her claim, and the recouping of the cost of litigation against her.

“These false allegations have caused catastrophic damage to this company. They have branded Dominion, which they voting company as perpetrating a massive fraud,” Tom Claire, the attorney representing Dominion, said in a Zoom press conference Friday. “Those allegations triggered a media firestorm that promoted those same false claims to a global audience. They’ve made the company radioactive and destroyed the value of this one’s thriving business and has put Dominions multi-year contracts in jeopardy.”

Powell didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The case has been assigned to Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee.

A lie spread through a right-wing media ecosystem

The lawsuit outlines how Powell used the right-wing media ecosystem to spread the theory. It says that Powell’s falsehoods “in concert with like-minded allies and media outlets” have led to threats against Dominion employees and election officials.

It also points out that Trump tweeted videos of Powell, amplifying her claims “to his more than 88 million followers, instantly and irreparably damaging Dominion’s reputation and business to a global audience and putting the lives of Dominion employees in danger.”

Claire said Friday that this lawsuit against Powell will be the first in a series and that the company is still weighing whether to sue Trump himself.

He told Insider that he expects to sue other parties parallel to Powell, rather than waiting for the lawsuit against her to conclude.

Donald Trump wildcard

US President Donald Trump looks on during a ceremony presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to wrestler Dan Gable in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on December 7, 2020.

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

In December, Claire sent document retention letters to Giuliani as well as right-wing media organizations including Fox News, Newsmax, and One America News, and previously told Insider that the company was weighing defamation lawsuits against them, as well.

The lawsuit also outlines how Powell raised money from her media tour peddling her conspiracy theory through a corporate vehicle called “Defending the Republic, Inc,” also named as a party in the lawsuit.

“Powell willfully made them in the course of her business as a media figure, author, and attorney because she could derive — and did in fact derive — both direct and indirect financial benefits from making those false statements,” the lawsuit says.

Actual malice

To succeed in a defamation lawsuit, plaintiffs like Dominion must show that defendants like Powell acted with “actual malice,” rather than sincerely believing their falsehoods.

To clear this hurdle, Claire said Friday, the lawsuit points to the fact that Powell ignored Dominion’s demands for retraction.

“Heard they wrote me too! Haven’t seen it but retracting nothing We have #evidence. They are #fraud masters!” Powell tweeted on December 20, responding to a tweet from Lin Wood, a Trump elector and fellow attorney and conspiracy theorist who was banned from Twitter after falsely alleging Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts was involved in a pedophile ring and called for Vice President Mike Pence to be executed.

“It is hard to imagine better evidence of record disregards to the truth,” Claire said.

sidney powell lin wood

Attorney Sidney Powell looks at attorney L. Lin Wood as he speaks during a press conference on election results in Georgia on December 2, 2020.

Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Claire also said Powell continued to push her conspiracy theory even when she was contradicted by hard evidence, falsified court filings, and misrepresented the qualifications of her sources.

“She continued to make those same discredited statements over and over and over again the face of all of that hard evidence,” Claire said. “She concealed and misrepresented who her sources actually were, as well as their qualifications. She relied on sources with a track record of spreading false statements and spreading conspiracy theories.”

The lawsuit points to an exhibit Powell filed in her federal lawsuit in Georgia. She said that Dominion did not have up-to-date certification in the state. In fact, the exhibit simply cropped out the certification date, which was recent.

election certification georgia dominion sidney powell

On the left, an exhibit Sidney Powell filed in a lawsuit with approval cropped out. On the right, the authentic election technology approval certificate.

Dominion lawsuit

Jan Jacobowitz, a former University of Miami law professor and expert on legal ethics, previously told Insider that Powell could be disbarred or face other court sanctions if she was found to falsify documents in her lawsuits. The City of Detroit, following the failure of Powell’s Michigan lawsuit, has already referred her for disbarment.

Dominion’s lawsuit outlines the dubious sources Powell cites in her lawsuits. One is “Spider” — Powell sometimes spelled the name as “Spyder” — who claimed to be a “military intelligence expert.” Powell retracted his identity from the lawsuit exhibits but erroneously included his real name in the metadata. The Washington Post spoke to Merritt and found that he vastly misrepresented his qualifications.

sidney powell rudy giuliani

Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell at a Trump campaign press conference.

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Another source, who Powell described as a “Venezuelan military officer,” was identified by the Associated Press as Leamsy Villafaña José Salazar. Dominion’s lawsuit describes Salazar’s claims as false on their face.

“If Salazar is now a pure-hearted whistleblower with the best interests of American democracy at heart, why did he wait more than five years after arriving in the United States — until after Trump had lost the presidential election —  to tell anyone that U.S. elections were being rigged through the use of decades-old Venezuelan vote-flipping software[?]” the lawsuit says.

Other affiants Powell relied on in her lawsuit, Dominion says, are “conspiracy theorists, con artists, and other facially unreliable sources as experts.”

The lawsuit cites evidence showing that one lied about their military career, and that another lied about being a doctor and used money raised for charity for personal gain. Yet another purported to show fraud citing a county that does not exist. And one pushed anti-Semitic conspiracy theories claiming George Soros helped give rise to Nazi Germany in the 1930s (Soros is Jewish and was born in 1930).

“Lies were told about government election officials, elections workers, and Dominion Voting Systems,” Dominion CEO John Poulos said Friday. “Those lies have consequences. They have served to diminish the credibility of U.S. elections. They have subjected officials and Dominion employees to harassment and death threats. And they have severely damaged the reputation of our company.”

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