Garrett Ziegler Done in by His Chateau Marmont Field Trip

Judge Hernán Vera has denied Garrett Ziegler’s motion to dismiss Hunter Biden’s lawsuit against him.

I had thought that Ziegler’s defense against the hacking claims, which argued that because Hunter Biden never owned the hard drive on which Ziegler received all Hunter’s data (including the iPhone protected by a password), might pose some interesting legal arguments.

I’m sure we’ll see the argument return, but for this stage of proceedings, Judge Vera agreed with Hunter’s argument that the relevant hacking laws focus on data, not devices.

Defendants assert that “[n]either the CFAA nor the CCDAFA authorizes a party whose data has been copied to assert a civil action over any computer, device or system not in their possession.” Motion at 5. But Defendants fail to point to language in these statutes that require possession of the physical device. Neither the CFAA nor the CCDAFA contain any requirement that Plaintiff must “own,” “possess,” or “control” the physical device or computer that Defendants accessed. The statute concerns the ownership of the data accessed. Both statutes allow Plaintiff to assert claims based on the facts asserted. See 18 U.S.C. § 1030(g) (extending civil remedy to “any person” who suffers damage or loss); Cal. Pen. Code § 502(e)(1) (extending civil remedy to owners of “data” who suffer damage or loss). In fact, Defendants’ ownership-and-control argument has been rejected by the Ninth Circuit. See Theofel v. Farey-Jones, 359 F.3d 1066, 1078 (9th Cir. 2004) (reversing “district court [that] erred by reading ownership or control requirement into the [CFAA] . . . . Individuals other than the computer’s owner may be proximately harmed by unauthorized access, particularly if they have rights to data stored on it.”).

The next time some tabloid journalist makes big news about Hunter’s spouse calling Ziegler a Nazi, she can state with confidence that this is a lawsuit about hacking, not about merely disseminating data.

The means by which Vera dismissed Ziegler’s claim that there was no personal jurisdiction over his activities in California are a bit more fun.

Among the evidence that Ziegler’s activity included a focus on California cited by Vera was the picture Ziegler posted to Instragram showing himself posing outside the Chateau Marmont in LA, holding a copy of his report.

Vera also noted that Ziegler’s sales of the report rely on Stripe and its CA-based servers.

Defendant Ziegler notes that the report Defendants prepared using Plaintiff’s data is available at the website Ziegler Decl. ¶ 8 & n.1. On this website, a “Purchase” button is prominently displayed, allowing users to spend $50.00 for a hardcopy of the Biden report. Declaration of Gregory A. Ellis (“Ellis Decl.”) ¶ 6, Ex. A [Dkt. No. 30-2]. Clicking the purchase button then links to a purchase page operated by, a California-based entity whose purchase terms are governed by California law.7

7 See, Section 12.

And Vera noted that Ziegler had sent copies of the report to CA residents like Elvis Chan (the FBI Agent at the center of right wing conspiracy theories about Twitter briefings) and Hunter’s criminal defense attorney, Angela Machala.

For example, he sent copies to multiple California residents to verify Plaintiff’s information. Ziegler said in interviews that his team talked with each person named in the report. Ellis Decl. Exs. C at 12 (“I took the time to call each and every person that is in this report”) [Dkt. No. 30-5]; D at 8 (“we’ve sent the dossier to all 4,000 contacts on Hunter’s laptop) [Dkt. No. 30-6]. He even includes a table of alleged Plaintiff family crimes with California area codes, many listing “where (venue)” as C.D. Cal. Ellis Decl. Ex. E at 233–35, 400–01. Other California residents include an FBI agent in the San Francisco field office, Ellis Decl. Ex. E at 22. And Ziegler even sent the Report to the personal residence of one of Plaintiff’s California-based attorneys. Ellis Decl. ¶ 12.

Vera’s ruling opens the way for discovery of the specific means and personnel involved in the exploitation of the hard drive, including the chain of custody via which Ziegler obtained it. Among the issues ripe for discovery cited in Hunter’s response include how Ziegler obtained the data, who funded his efforts, and who helped Ziegler exploit the data.

Defendants will have to explain how many copies of Plaintiff’s data they received and from whom, as well as the precise data they came to possess, during discovery in this case.


Ziegler’s assertions about Defendants’ website views and support from California also demonstrate that the Court should exercise its discretion to allow jurisdictional discovery, should it still have questions about jurisdiction even after reviewing Plaintiff’s evidence. See, e.g., Orchid Biosciences, Inc. v. St. Louis Univ., 198 F.R.D. 670, 672-73 (S.D. Cal. 2001) (noting that courts have broad discretion in allowing jurisdictional discovery, citing multiple authorities). Here, discovery would be appropriate to address the following issues, at a minimum: the total number of Defendants’ financial supporters based in California; the percentage of their total financial supporters based in California; the total amount of money donated from California; the percentage of Defendants’ monetary donations emanating from California; the total number of unique website viewers from California; the percentage of unique website viewers from California; the number and percentages of website purchases of hardcopies of the Report emanating from California locations; and the number of California residents Ziegler sent hardcopies of the Report to in his “carpet-bombing” campaign, discussed infra.


4 It is unclear whether the “team” of individuals who assisted Defendants with their data-related activities includes any California residents. In his declaration, Ziegler attests he has “hired no employees or independent contracts [sic] to conduct business in California, nor do any of Marco Polo’s board members reside in California.” (Ziegler Decl. ¶ 13.) But this careful wording leaves open many potential California connections, including the possibility that some aspects of Defendants’ unlawful data-related activities occurred in California and/or were perpetrated by California residents who were assisting Defendants in a capacity other than as “employees or independent contractors.” The location of Defendants’ “team” members is another appropriate topic for jurisdictional discovery.

The frothy right made a big deal about the fact that Hunter and Robert Costello put the lawsuit against Costello and Rudy Giuliani on hold pending Rudy’s bankruptcy. But discovery on this lawsuit will get to some of the very same issues.

21 replies
  1. Arkancrow says:

    This is going to be a very interesting discovery.

    Because those 630 pages must have required quite a bit of work.

    Do we know how much time it took between the moment Ziegler received the data and the publication of the “report” ?

    Are they any effort put in place to debunk some of it ?

  2. Clare Kelly says:

    Marcy wrote:
    “The means by which Vera dismissed Ziegler’s claim that there was no personal jurisdiction over his activities in California are a bit more fun.”

    Make discovery fun again!

    Thank you.

  3. Sherrie H says:

    It makes sense that the hacking law is about data, because otherwise things like email (for most people, anway) and cloud storage would be fair game, which would be absolutely nuts.

    • emptywheel says:

      There’s a hint that Ziegler (and Rudy, in the lawsuit against him) accessed Hunter’s cloud data as well. That’s where things will get more interesting, because it will make it more awkward that no one at DOJ much paid attention to this.

      • Peterr says:

        Vera’s ruling opens the way for discovery of the specific means and personnel involved in the exploitation of the hard drive, including the chain of custody via which Ziegler obtained it.

        The DOJ may not have been paying much attention to this in the past, but the phrase “opens the way for discovery” has a way of getting people’s attention.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          It’s about effing time. And if it happens because of Garrett Ziegler’s attempt to avoid accountability…well, that just makes it sweeter.

  4. Spencer Dawkins says:

    Thank you for including Ziegler’s field trip photo in your post. It was the icing on an excellent and expertly-prepared cake.

    I shudder to think where American democracy would be, if the radical right didn’t post evidence of their crimes on social media. How many Jan6ers would still be roaming the streets, but for their mid-assault selfies?

    • Magbeth4 says:

      The RW Radicals make those mistakes because they never read “Crime and Punishment.” Those guilty of a crime always, in the end, reveal their guilt. Maybe? It’s because they want the recognition and “fame” that comes along with “outing” themselves.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A literary trope is not a legal or practical reality. Criminals get away with it all the time. Donald Trump is a good example, as was Roy Cohn, and more than a few mobsters.

  5. zscoreUSA says:

    Surprised that Hunter didn’t also bring up the text exchange between Kevin Morris and someone on Ziegler’s team.

    There is a text from Morris asking if the Ziegler associate is in a Los Angeles suburb due to the area code the Ziegler associate was texting from.

    Ziegler leaked and then filed the entire text exchange in the lawsuit by Kevin Morris in LA Superior Court. That’s another connection to California.

    Also, will the Discovery open up to allow Ziegler to turn over everyone who he coordinated with about Hunter’s data? He claims to have a small team of people working with him, and he is doing everything on his own and with limited help. But I would bet that he has gotten coached and mentored by the Heritage Foundation, based on listening through his interviews.

    • emptywheel says:

      It’s in the response — I think Vera included Morris among the lawyers, plural, that Ziegler contacted.

      Ziegler also has bragged about an elaborate “catfishing” operation he and his associates performed on Plaintiff’s attorney and friend, California resident Kevin Morris, in preparing the Report. (Ellis Decl. Exs. F at 4-5; G at 9-12.) The operation included Defendants using “two private investigators” to “look into Kevin Morris for about a month” (presumably in California), posing to Morris as someone friendly to Plaintiff “over the course of weeks,” and then “feeding” Morris with what Ziegler now claims to be “false information” about manipulation of the data belonging to Plaintiff. (Ellis Decl. Ex. G at 10.)

      • zscoreUSA says:

        Cool thanks.

        Btw I see your your dialogue with Mac Isaac on Twitter and Kolomoisky.

        Who would have an interest in Mac Isaac bringing up Kolomoisky with the FBI?

        Vekselberg? Firtash? Rudy/Trump in order to pressure Kolomoisky into giving them something? As you pointed out previously, there isn’t much on the laptop about Kolomoisky, so for Mac Isaac to bring up, seems inorganic.

        And really curious why Mac Isaac told Hunter he didn’t give his dad a copy of Hunter’s hard drive until 2/5/20, but in his book says he sent it to his dad Sept 2019 so his dad would have in his car while he went to FBI ABQ.

        • emptywheel says:

          I took the reference to Kolomoisky as a bid to Rudy’s attacks on him already.

          Which would suggest earlier coordination.

          Besides, who really believes that JPMI know of him on his own?

          And yes, the timing of sending the teddy bear to dad is of some interest.

        • zscoreUSA says:

          Reply to Emptywheel:

          Given that the FBI took in the Mac Isaac laptop as part of the money laundering investigation, is it possible that Mac Isaac raised Kolomoisky specifically so that the FBI would have to take in the laptop?

          Just raising Hunter and Burisma wasn’t enough to get the FBI interested in the laptop. But if there was an already in progress money laundering investigation into Kolomoisky in Delaware, then they would be forced to look into it?

          Does that sound plausible or no?

  6. Savage Librarian says:

    Each Derrière

    MAGAts hide in a room somewhere
    Data hacks with their doctrinaire
    We hope each derrière
    is subject to discovery

    Hacker wallets should feel the heat
    Each own-goal facing its defeat
    Workspace, work plans, work cheats,
    Yes, subject to discovery

    Yes, discovery giving
    abso-bloomin’-lutely chills
    Leverage to nudge some things
    kept hidden by MAGAt shills

    Someone’s head spinning remotely
    Maybe tenders a remedy
    Will hacks compare, we’ll see
    Oh, it’s in the discovery
    Discovery, discovery
    Discovery, discovery

    “Lyrics for Wouldn’t It Be Loverly? by Julie Andrews – Songfacts”

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