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Kari Lake asks court to decide damages in Maricopa County official’s defamation case

Recorder Stephen Richer takes the filing as an admission of liability on Lake’s part, writing “Kari: You lied.”

A man with dark hair and wearing a dark suit speaks from a podium with news microphones in the foreground and an office setting in the background.
Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer talks about problems with ballot printers during the 2022 midterm election. Richer sued Kari Lake for defamation after she alleged he intentionally caused the Election Day problems. (Olivier Touron / AFP via Getty Images)

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Kari Lake is asking the court to quickly issue a judgment and to decide how much she will pay Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer in the defamation case he brought against her, according to a filing in Maricopa County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Richer sued Lake — who ran for governor in 2022 and is now running for U.S. Senate — for defamation last year, alleging that Lake made defamatory allegations that he had assisted in rigging the gubernatorial election against Lake. They are both Republicans.

Richer’s legal team is treating Lake’s filing, a motion for default judgment, as an admission of liability.

“She has decided she cannot defend herself in this case despite continuously saying she has evidence,” said Ben Berwick, counsel at Protect Democracy, among the firms representing Richer in the lawsuit.

Lake’s attorneys do not defend Lake’s claims about Richer in the filing, nor do they challenge any of Richer’s arguments about the facts. Instead, they ask the court for a quick hearing to decide damages.

After filing the document, Lake said in a video posted on X that Richer’s lawsuit against her was “lawfare,” and she wouldn’t be taking part in the lawsuit. It was unclear what she meant, and one of her attorneys, Jennifer Wright, told Votebeat to contact her communications team for additional comment.

But Lake also said she would continue to fight for the state, saying “even if they leave me, my husband, and children penniless, that won’t stop us.”

Richer, who sued in his personal capacity, had asked the court to award him compensatory and punitive damages, along with a statement admitting her claims were false. He also asked her to remove all of the false statements from the internet. While he did not state a dollar amount in his complaint, the case has been categorized as “tier 3,” which is for cases involving $300,000 in damages.

After Lake’s filing, Richer said in a statement on X that the motion represented “complete and total surrender by @KariLake.”

“Kari: You lied,” he wrote. “You just accepted liability. You will now have a judgment entered, in court, against you, for lying about our elections and me. It was all B.S. Now on to damages.”

Lake made many claims about Richer after she lost the election, but Richer’s legal team zeroed in on specific statements she made that they said could be easily proven false and they were confident were not hyperbole, according to Berwick, with Protect Democracy.

One of those claims was that Richer “intentionally printed 19-inch images on 20-inch ballots to sabotage the 2022 Arizona general election,” according to the complaint. Another was that Richer “inserted 300,000 ‘illegal,’ ‘invalid,’ ‘phony’, and/or ‘bogus’ early-vote ballots into the Maricopa County vote count.”

Lake made the claims in January 2023, in front of a large crowd at her Save Arizona Rally. She told the crowd she lost her bid for governor because of Supervisor Bill Gates and Recorder Stephen Richer’s “rigged elections,” she said. As two TV screens behind her began to display a photo of Richer and Gates, the crowd began to chant.

“Lock them up! Lock them up!” they shouted.

Richer does not run Election Day voting. While Maricopa County saw widespread problems with its ballot printers on Election Day, Richer did not test or deploy that equipment in his role. Lake’s claims that these problems were intentional on behalf of county officials were rejected by the courts following her election, from the local courts to the Arizona Court of Appeals. An independent investigation into the problems also found that the problems were technical in nature.

The courts also rejected Lake’s claim that fake early ballots were inserted into the election results. This claim stemmed from a whistleblower report that alleged the county was missing chain-of-custody documentation on those ballots. The court found that Lake did not have any evidence for her related claim. Lake’s attorneys were later sanctioned for saying the ballot insertion was an “undisputed” fact.

Richer said in his complaint that these statements had caused harm to him and his family, including harassment that took a toll on his physical and mental health.

Lake is asking for medical records to support his damages claim, and specifics to support his allegation that her claims cost him Republican support from donors and others.

The defamation case was just about to enter the discovery phase ahead of trial, in which Lake would have been required to provide Richer’s attorneys with private statements she had made about her claims about Richer.

“Just the idea that Stephen, who is a committed public servant who has shown a real commitment to the integrity of elections in Arizona, would intentionally sabotage her election is absurd on its face,” Berwick said on Monday, before Lake’s filing. “Among other things, they are both Republicans.”

Jen Fifield is a reporter for Votebeat based in Arizona. Contact Jen at jfifield@votebeat.org.

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