Utah Republican Convention

In this April 23, 2016, photo, delegates cheer during the Utah Republican Party nominating convention in Salt Lake City. Utah's Republican Party was pressing on with a legal battle that's divided the state GOP, arguing that a state candidate nominating law violates its rights.

SALT LAKE CITY — A man accused of hacking a top Utah Republican Party meeting wants to know who’s financing the civil lawsuit against him.

Giles Witherspoon-Boyd is a defendant in a U.S. District Court suit filed in December 2018 by Weber County party officials Lynda Pipkin, Robert McEntee and Elizabeth Carlin.

They allege Witherspoon-Boyd and a fellow Utah County Republican, Daryl Acumen, conspired to intercept text messages and other electronic communications during a Sept. 9, 2017, meeting of the GOP State Central Committee in North Salt Lake.

The plaintiffs are seeking financial damages, saying their right to privacy was violated by a rival faction looking for political dirt. The defendants say they’re being targeted by sore losers in the party’s long-running internal war over the caucus and primary election system.

Witherspoon-Boyd operated a computer setup that facilitated communications for party members during the committee meeting. He and Acumen have denied any wrongdoing.

Acumen has been a leading opponent of the state’s old election system, under which party caucuses determined which candidates advanced to the primary election. Those opponents prevailed with passage of Senate Bill 54 in 2014. Under that law, candidates can advance to the primary either through the caucus system or by gathering a sufficient number of voter signatures.

Pipkin and other plaintiffs in the civil suit fought to keep the old system under the banner of the Keep My Voice drive, but their cause was dashed this spring when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal.

During a deposition earlier this year, her attorney, Seth Needs, advised Pipkin not to answer questions about financing of the lawsuit. He soon terminated the deposition proceeding.

On Aug. 14 and 21, Witherspoon-Boyd’s attorney, Walter Romney, filed documents urging the court to compel Pipkin to identify any financial backers of the litigation.

“They don’t want to say who’s suing me,” Witherspoon-Boyd said in an interview Monday.

Witherspoon-Boyd asserted that Dave Bateman, a leader of the anti-SB 54 Keep My Voice movement, is financing the suit. Bateman is CEO of Lehi-based Entrata, a property management software provider.

And because Romney said Bateman surreptitiously recorded a conversation he had with Witherspoon-Boyd after the 2017 meeting, the defense wants to know whether Bateman is financially invested in the suit.

Bateman probably would be called to testify in the trial, and if he has a financial stake in the outcome, that would create a situation of bias, Romney argued.

In previous interviews, Pipkin and Needs have declined to disclose information about how the suit is being funded.

In a document responding to Romney’s motion to compel the disclosure, Needs said numerous rulings in similar cases have indicated that “merely providing funding for a lawsuit does not constitute bias (and) no one besides plaintiffs has anything to gain from the outcome of this case.”

Todd Weiler, a Woods Cross attorney and state senator who is defending Acumen in the suit, said in an earlier interview that his client believed Bateman was behind the suit in an attempt to get “a pound of flesh” from the rival party faction.

Efforts to get comment from Bateman were not immediately successful.

Race has also come up as an issue in the lawsuit. Acumen and Witherspoon-Boyd are black.

“Daryl and I happen to be two people of color” targeted in a lawsuit “with not a lot of substance to it,” Witherspoon-Boyd said.

Pipkin, McEntee and Carlin are white.

In an earlier interview, Acumen said, “I dance around this all the time ... I absolutely think there is an undercurrent of racism in the Republican Party. There are definitely racists in this party. They don’t say it overtly, they’re really careful, but honestly I am sick of it.”

Pipkin said recently her only motivation for the suit is that her privacy rights were violated.

The lawsuit now continues through the pretrial phase.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.

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