Overlooked class action against Democratic Party and Wasserman Schultz turns nasty

By Francisco Alvarado, 

An ongoing legal battle playing out in Fort Lauderdale federal court over the Democratic National Committee’s presidential nominating process has devolved into accusations of harassment and intimidation conducted by unknown political operatives.

Last month, an attorney representing 150 Democratic voters in a little-noticed class action lawsuit against the DNC and its former chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, sought court-ordered security guards for himself, his clients, and his co-counsels and their employees following a string of bizarre incidents in June, including strange phone calls and emails by individuals disguising their voices and a mysterious break-in at the home of one of the plaintiffs.

On June 15, Senior U.S. District Judge William Zloch denied Fort Lauderdale lawyer Cullin O’Brien’s motion after determining that his request would overburden the U.S. Marshals Service because the plaintiffs reside in 45 states and Washington, D.C. The judge also noted that O’Brien had not provided any evidence directly linking the incidents to the DNC and Weston-based Wasserman Schultz.

“The undertaking would in all likelihood require the entire U.S. Marshals Service to direct all of its efforts and attention to this specific case,” Zloch wrote in his order.  “The Court notes that plaintiffs’ motion contains absolutely no factual nexus between Defendants and the conduct set forth in the motion.”

O’Brien did not respond to two phone messages and an email request for comment. Mark Caramanica, an attorney for Wasserman Schultz, referred questions to DNC lawyers Bruce Spiva and Marc Elias, who also did not return two phone messages and emails requesting comment.

DNC attorneys Bruce Spiva, left, and Marc Elias.

Elizabeth Beck, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told Florida Bulldog that it was not her legal team’s intent to show that the DNC and Wasserman Schultz were involved in the incidents. “We are not saying the DNC or the congresswoman ordered the harassment against us, the plaintiffs and our staff,” Beck said. “We don’t know who is doing it, but it did happen.”

The stakes are high for the DNC and Wasserman Schultz. The complaint accuses both of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and negligence by rigging Democratic primaries to favor former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. More than half of the plaintiffs are Sanders supporters who donated money to his campaign. The lawsuit claims the 150 Democrats are entitled to punitive damages in addition to refunds for their political donations.

Despite the explosive accusations in the lawsuit and the subsequent motion seeking court-ordered protection, there has been no coverage of the case in mainstream media outlets, including South Florida’s newspapers, since it was filed in June 2016.

‘Funny Business’

Beck and her husband, Jared Beck, are Miami-based personal injury lawyers who decided to support Sanders in early 2016. “I was phone banking and also hosted phone banks to teach other people,” Elizabeth Beck said. “I joined a lot of Facebook groups where I was sharing information and political memes. That’s when I started hearing about all this funny business happening during the primaries in various states.”

Attorneys Elizabeth and Jared Beck

She said her suspicions that the DNC was in the tank for Hillary Clinton were confirmed when Russian hackers publicly released internal documents from the committee on the Internet. “The lawsuit was filed based on that information,” Beck said. “Everyone, including the people who hired us, reached the same conclusion that the process was rigged.”

Beck also launched a Facebook page that has grown to more than 57,000 followers and started the political action committee JamPAC. She uses the JamPAC’s website to post updates and documents related to the lawsuit.

According to the 39-page complaint, the DNC and Wasserman Schultz violated DNC’s charter and bylaws that say the party chair “shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness” and “shall be responsible for ensuring that the officers and staff of the DNC maintain impartiality and evenhandedness.” Further, that while Wasserman repeatedly made public statements between September 2015 and May 2016 that she was committed to running a neutral primary, the congresswoman and the DNC was on team Clinton from the beginning of the 2016 presidential election cycle, the lawsuit claims.

To support their claims, the plaintiffs cited internal DNC documents obtained by Russian hackers and published on the Internet by purported hacker Guccifer 2.0. For example, on May 26, 2015 the DNC issued a memo outlining the party’s goals in providing a contrast between the “GOP field and HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton].” The memo also added the DNC would use “specific hits to muddy the waters around ethics, transparency and campaign finance attacks on HRC.”

The DNC has confirmed that the emails are legitimate.

During an April 25 motion hearing, DNC lawyer Spiva argued the plaintiffs don’t have standing to bring the lawsuit because the courts don’t have jurisdiction over how political parties decide to pick their candidates. “The Supreme Court and other courts have affirmed the party’s right to make that determination,” Spiva said. “Those are internal issues that the party gets to decide basically without interference from the courts.”

DNC ‘not obligated’ to follow own rules

The DNC is not obligated to follow its charter and its bylaws, Spiva added. “We could have voluntarily decided that we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to do and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way,” he said. “That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would also have been their right.”

Beck told Florida Bulldog she was taken aback by Spiva’s legal argument since Wasserman Schultz had always denied the DNC was playing favorites. “It’s a pretty outrageous position to take,” she said. “It was very different from what the congresswoman had been saying on national TV during the primaries.”

A little over a month later, things got even more strange. On June 1, Beck sent an email to DNC attorneys to inform them that her secretary had received a phone call from an unknown individual seeking information about the case. “The caller refused to identify himself/herself,” Beck wrote. “My secretary stated that it sounded like the caller was using a voice changer because the voice sounded robotic and genderless.”

Fort Lauderdale Attorney Cullin O’Brien

Beck also noted that the phone number that showed up on the caller ID was the same one for Wasserman Schultz’s Aventura district office. According to a June 1 reply filed in court by the congresswoman’s lawyers, Wasserman Schultz had no knowledge of the call being made and did not authorize it.

“Further, it is highly unlikely that the call did in fact originate with that office, as no one is currently working in the office associated with the subject number — or has anyone been working there for several months — due to ongoing repairs,” the reply states. “Given that the matter involves congressional phone lines, the incident has been reported to Capitol Police.”

The following day, Fort Lauderdale attorney O’Brien received three phone calls from an unknown number from a person who identified himself only as “Chris” inquiring about the lawsuit, according to the motion requesting protection. During the second phone call, “Chris” allegedly said, “This is bigger than you and your family and your law partners” and made a reference to news about the mysterious death of Assistant U.S. Attorney Beranton Whisenant in Fort Lauderdale. O’Brien also submitted under seal 11 emails allegedly sent by “Chris.”

Whisenant’s body was spotted floating just off Hollywood beach shortly before dawn on May 24. The cause of death has not been released, but the Miami Herald has reported that Hollywood police have said Whisenant suffered some trauma to his head.

On June 3, plaintiff Angela Monson from Dassel, Minn., said she woke up around 5:45 a.m. to use her laptop computer only to find it in a different spot from where she had last left it, which she thought was odd, according to an affidavit she filed as part of the motion for protection. “When I plugged in my laptop, it made a snapping noise and did not turn on,” Monson said. “When I turned it over, the bottom cover of the laptop fell off.  I then noticed that the bottom cover, which is attached to the laptop with 10 screws, had all the screws missing.”

After noticing that two patio doors she had locked the night before were unlocked, Monson called local police to file a report about a possible break-in, her affidavit states. The same day, O’Brien claims he received a call from the far-right militia group Oath Keepers offering him and his clients protection.

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Latest comments

  • Thanks for the coverage of this important issue. I think you are jumping to conclusions, however, when you assert that the DNC emails were hacked by Rusia. This is yet to be proven, and meantime, a group of former intelligence officers are disputing the mainstream narrative.

  • Check out Beck’s conspiracy crazy twitter:

  • Russian hackers did not release the DNC emails. They were copied on a thumb drive and leaked by an insider with access or by someone at NSA. which has access to all emails.

  • There were no leaks to Wikileaks by Russians. There’s no evidence of it and Julian Assange has said the leaks were not from Russia. Considering NOTHING published or stated by Wikileaks has ever been proven false, I have no choice but to take his word for it.

    Furthermore, there’s quite a bit of evidence that the leaks were coming from within the party by Seth Rich. Now I’m no conspiracy nut, but Assange himself seems to almost acknowledge this and I have a feeling that any decent probe into it would likely reveal it. However, this will never happen because if Rich was the leak it gives the democratic party zero mud to base their Russian conspiracy theory b.s. on, and if he actually was killed to stop the leak, then at least a few powerful people knew about it who are pretty much above the law. I’m not saying he was killed, as his death could have been a complete coincidence. Just making a point. When you look at it objectively, his death was a win-win for the Democratic party. They were ramming Hillary into office regardless of what the Democratic voters wanted, and they needed a fall guy. Bill Clinton has access to every bit of intelligence data as a former president. (Proof? George Bush Sr. still gets the reports delivered to him daily to this day) Therefore I’d put GOOD money that somebody somewhere was watching when Trump had meetings with Russian lawyers whether it had anything to do with the campaign or not. And it was likely in some brief somewhere. And since Wikileaks has been painted by both parties as evil, Wikileaks was an easy target. So with Seth Rich gone (if known to be the leak when he died), it’s a slam dunk Russian blame game when they lost. … or at least they thought.

    So maybe they thought so, but the rub is MANY people know Wikileaks is not known for lying, and it’s been a hard sell because of that. Those people are screaming long and loud. Worse, what was leaked to Wikileaks was that the party rigged the election. That in itself discredits anything else you can believe from them at that point and makes people have pause.

    Now you may disagree with this statement, but the very definition of treason is what they did. What they did was the ultimate un-American act…they interfered with voting in an election process. How many times have we used our military to help other countries hold FAIR elections? I mean think about it for a second before just dismissing these comments. The Democratic party tried to forcefully overtake the government by rigging an election in the favor of their OWN candidate. Forcefully overtaking the government by any means IS treason. And this is more true than ever if they posed as a “government” entity and took tax dollars (which they did) while working covertly with “private party” interests.

    The fact is, in all cases, either you’re part of the government or you’re not. If you’re being paid by the government in any way, either you’re a contractor working on BEHALF of the government (WHICH this same act of deceiving and attempted forceful takeover would be defined as treason by a private entity in any other scenario), or you ARE a part of the government whereas you are still required by law to not be preferential. Either way the party is in the wrong. There’s no two ways about it. They took money from the taxpayers to run an election FAIRLY. By very definition if the only way (for anyone) to be elected is to go through the selection procedure of either the Republican or Democratic party while totally ignoring the will of the people, then it cannot possibly be a fair election if the parties are private unless there are unlimited other parties at the table. Otherwise, that’s like having your thumb on the scales and then saying it’s not relevant. It most certainly is relevant.

  • While I’m pleased that you publicize the class action lawsuit, I’m disturbed that you repeat the unproven accusation, ” … confirmed when Russian hackers publicly released internal documents …”.

    There is absolutely no disclosed evidence that the information was obtained by Russian hackers, and you are remiss for stating this as fact. Meanwhile, there are several highly likely alternative sources such as Seth Rich and Imran Awan. See analysis by the “Forensicator” proving that at least some of the leaks were copied with a direct connection (such as USB) from the IT system.

    If you think you must report “Russian hackers”, then I suggest you insert “alleged”, rather than state something as fact that you may have to publish a retraction for later.

  • Oh what an ugly web we weave… I hope Awan spills the beans, that is if he survives until trial. The stakes are sky high, what with the untimely and mysterious deaths of half a dozen people set to testify against the corrupt DNC, along with the young man who delivered the papers to DNC.

    This Party, I’m ashamed to say, is on the verge of collapse; deservedly so.

  • Funny…the Russian hacker has an American name: Seth Rich.
    And he didn’t hack, he had direct access because he was a data analyst for DNC. THE DOCUMENTS WERE LEAKED BY INSIDE SOURCE, NOT HACKED EXTERNALLY.

  • This story does not mention Wikileaks. Guccifer 2.0 is a phony. It is Wikileaks that exposed Clinton, and Seth Rich, not Russia, was the original leaker. Please don’t include such inaccuracies in your stories. Those of us who read Wikileaks, both left and right, know better. Thanks.

  • Why did you say “Russian Hackers”? Please correct this.

    You’re perpetuating the misinfo that isn’t backed by proof.

    The data was downloaded and leaked, it wasn’t hacked and Wikileaks says the info did not come from Russia.

  • I appreciate that you are reporting on a story that the establishment wants to bury but there is no evidence that Russians hacked the DNC computers. Very shoddy reporting. Almost high schoolish. Didn’t you know there is no evidence of Russian hacking?

  • Dear Reporter Alvarado and Honorable Florida Bulldog reader:

    I am EXTREMELY GRATEFUL to you for covering this story.

    DNC Vice Chair Tulsi Gabbard resigned in protest over these maaters, and went on an interview tour, informing the public Hillary Clinton’s efforts to overthrow the Syrian government represented the danger of repeating the Iraq War.

    Congresswoman Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran who supported Bernie Sanders, went on to say that Hillary Clinton’s support for a Syrian no-fly m-zone, risked war with Russia.

    She further stated twice, in two separate interviews with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, that such Syria No Fly Zone war with Russia could escalate into nuclear war.

    Both Russian President Putin and President Trump have publicly worried that the Hillary Clinton and NEO CON efforts to overthrow the Syrian government, and run Russia out of its decades-long presence in Syria, could lead to World War and even nuclear war.

    I find it incomprehensible, if not unforgivable, that, given the publicly stated possible risk of nuclear war involved in the matters in the DNC fraud lawsuit , The Miami Herald hasn’t covered it.

    Sincerely, and THANK YOU,

    Jackson Rip Holmes
    Coral Gables

  • P.S. I can’t help but mention the fact that former State Republican Party Chair Jim Greer was PROSECUTED for fraud by the State of Florida.

    So much for the idea intra-Party politics is ‘above the law’. JRH

  • Bernie Sanders is not (and never was) a Democrat … and his campaign’s attacks on the Democratic Party are largely responsible for Donald Trump’s success.

  • The Democratic party needs to be torn down and rebuilt. It’s a disgrace. Instead of re-tooling crooked, repulsive characters like Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, they need fresh blood and fresh ideas…but above all honesty and ethics…something they are sorely lacking!

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