McCrory is not one of the people being sued for libel.
The case is against some of his 2016 supporters. They falsely accused several dozen North Carolinians of voting illegally, although only a handful of those voters are suing.
The lawsuit targets the Washington, D.C., law firm Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky and its lawyers who worked on McCrory’s post-election push. Also being sued are McCrory’s legal defense fund — which records show has just $2,000 left in the bank — that allowed him to raise and spend money on the complaints separately from his campaign fund, and William Clark Porter IV, a Republican official from Guilford County where most of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit also live.
The voters have said they will leave it up to a trial to determine exactly how much money they should be paid by the various defendants, but they believe it should be more than $25,000. Meanwhile, their accusers say there’s no proof they committed libel or engaged in any sort of conspiracy.
Neither side in the 2016 libel case disputes the central fact that the voters were indeed wrongfully accused. Those false accusations were that they illegally voted multiple times, or illegally voted as a felon.
The main arguments in this case, then, are legal ones: Does the law allow voters to win damages from people who wrongfully accused them of voting illegally? Or does the law protect their accusers, since they sent the claims to state officials whose job it is to investigate such allegations? And aside from the libel claims, how much evidence do you need to prove anyone conspired against the voters who were falsely accused?
“A conspiracy cannot be based solely on suspicion and conjecture, and that’s all they offer in terms of their arguments,” said Craig Schauer, one of the attorneys for the defendants, in court Wednesday.
One of the legal questions boils down to just how serious it is for a person to be accused of voter fraud. The voters say they suffered sleepless nights, ridicule in their communities and damage to their reputations.
And voter fraud is certainly a crime. But is it an “infamous” crime? They’re trying to prove that, and one of the arguments from the GOP side is that “infamous” crimes refer to much more serious offenses, like murder or treason.
There’s also disagreement over how relevant or necessary the statements from McCrory’s recount team were to the state’s investigation of the election complaints. Millen said the McCrory team made at least five false statements about his clients, none of which were actually necessary to file an election protest, “yet they’re all there.”