An organizer of the 2017 Unite the Right rally was found in civil contempt of court on Monday for his failure to comply with previous federal court orders in the discovery phase of a lawsuit against him and other organizers of the deadly rally.
Judge Norman K. Moon found Elliott Kline, also known as Eli Mosley, in civil contempt of court and ordered him to turn over passwords to his email accounts and give up three cellphones and their passcodes or face fines and jailtime. The order came after the court said Kline has dodged requests for records and devices, or provided incomplete responses.
Moon said there was “no question at all” that Kline was in contempt. He told Kline Monday to provide his passwords for online accounts and turn over three phones used to talk with alt-right contacts, or face an escalating series of consequences.
Kline had two of the phones with him on Monday, one of which he said was new, and did not want to turn them both over to authorities. Ultimately, Kline gave up both devices and their passcodes.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs asked Monday for the newest phone after Kline told the court that he was contacted by members of the alt-right after turning over the number to the phone earlier this fall.
He said after he emailed the court his new number, alt-right contacts reached out to him about court deadlines.
Moon said if Kline does not comply with orders by Dec. 2 at 5 p.m., he will be charged $200 a day for noncompliance. If Kline is not in compliance by a Dec. 16 hearing date, he will be sent to jail.
Kline has ignored previous orders, Moon said, and Moon elaborated that “it isn’t rocket science” to respond to evidence requests.
In August, Kline was ordered to comply with discovery requests. Kline agreed to turn over his cellphone to a third-party vendor later that same week and to be deposed.
However, while he sent plaintiffs a cell phone and some information, the plaintiffs have told the court that he has never fully complied with their requests. In early October, they asked the court to sanction Kline for failing to turn over documents and devices and for dodging questions in his deposition.
The Monday hearing had been scheduled in October, but Kline said in an email last week that he did not think he could make the hearing, because he planned to be in New York to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Moon declined to reschedule the hearing, saying Kline was still required to appear and comply with discovery.
Kline told the court that he has had issues accessing the email accounts in question, in part as a result of being forced to turn over his main phone.
“I’ve been trying to comply since August,” he told the court. “…However, not having my primary phone I sent in has been an issue.”
Kline told Moon that he did not have regular access to the main email account to with which plaintiffs and the court were communicating because that account had a two-factor authentication and was sending a code to the phone he turned over to a third-party vendor for review.
Kline surrendered that phone on Aug. 14, but did not provide the passcode to the phone until Oct. 18.
He said he had only been able to access his main email account a few times on his parents’ computer and on his Walmart Tracfone. Kline said he recently got the Tracfone out of a storage unit and that he only had enough minutes purchased to send one email from the primary account that was logged in on the phone. He said he couldn’t afford to purchase more minutes.
Later, he said he had $1,400 to $1,600 in his bank account from working part-time jobs he found on Craigslist.
Moon asked Kline if there were parts of the orders that he did not understand.
“They were written in English, weren’t they?,” Moon asked.
Moon also asked Kline if he had a disability that prevented him from understanding.
“You know what you’re saying just doesn’t make any sense,” Moon said.
The court took an hour recess for Kline to provide his passwords to the plaintiffs, but Kline then claimed he didn’t remember the password for his primary email address and that it was saved on his parents’ computer.
He said he would access the account when he got to his parents’ house, then change the password, turn off two-factor authentication and send the information to the plaintiffs.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs said there was harm done because of the months of delayed discovery.
Moon said that he will write a written opinion later this week.