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Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer suing Kari Lake for defamation

By Ben Giles, Tom Maxedon
The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, June 22, 2023 - 3:52pm
Updated: Saturday, June 24, 2023 - 4:03pm

Stephen Richer Kari Lake
Gage Skidmore/CC BY 2.0
Stephen Richer (left) and Kari Lake.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer is suing failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake for defamation. Richer is suing Lake not as the recorder, but in his personal capacity.

In an op-ed published by the Arizona Republic, Richer wrote that Lake’s repeated lies about the 2022 election have irreparably damaged his personal and professional life and reputation.

Specifically, Richer wrote that his complaint — filed Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court — will cite repeated false statements made by Lake about Richer’s role and actions leading up to and during the election.

Richer is asking a judge to order Lake, her campaign and her political action committee to retract those statements and pay him damages.

Lake responded to the suit on social media with the claim, “I’m exposing the massive corruption in our elections and this jackass is suing me. He wants to silence US.”

She is openly considering a run for U.S. Senate and is a leading contender to be Trump's running mate in his 2024 presidential campaign.

U.S. Supreme Court precedent sets a high bar for defamation cases brought by public officials like Richer. But Dominion Voting Systems' lawsuit against Fox News Channel over false claims about its vote-counting equipment resulted in damaging disclosures of internal Fox messages and a $787.5 million settlement.

Richer’s lawyers wrote in their complaint that Lake has the right to criticize Richer but not to spread lies that bring him harm.

The suit takes issue with two claims in particular — that Richer intentionally had 19-inch ballot images printed on 20-inch paper, causing counting problems, and that he injected 300,000 bogus ballots. It details nearly three dozen times she made the claims publicly on social media or at rallies and news conferences.

The suit says Richer has faced death threats — including one that was prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department — and has spent thousands of dollars on home security. He said he and his wife have altered their routines and law enforcement has stepped up patrols around their home and workplaces.

“She has gone far outside of the bounds of protected free speech as guaranteed under the First Amendment and the Arizona Constitution,” Richer wrote in The Republic.

Politics Elections