By Paul Wagman
The defamation case brought by two Georgia election workers against the far-right website “The Gateway Pundit” and its owner, St. Louisan Jim Hoft, has finally been set for trial in St. Louis Circuit Court.
The trial is scheduled to begin on March 10, 2025, the court recently ordered. That means that more than three-and-one-quarter years will have elapsed between the time the case here was filed — in December 2021 – and the time a 12-member jury in downtown St. Louis will begin to hear it.
Lawyers for the two women as well as outside legal observers have accused the defendants’ legal team of stall tactics, including failures to comply with requests for discovery and a countersuit. Even so, court records show, the delay is not exceptional. Two other civil cases set for trial just this week date from 2017 and 2019.
The proceedings will bring renewed national attention to the story of how the two women, Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, were harassed with death threats and other abuse after The Gateway Pundit, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former President Donald Trump falsely accused them of fraud in the vote counting for the 2020 election. A jury in Washington, D.C. recently ordered Giuliani to pay the women, who are mother and daughter, $148 million.
Two members of the winning legal team in that Washington case are also part of the team in the St. Louis suit. One is United to Protect Democracy, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. that describes itself as non-partisan and “dedicated to defeating the authoritarian threat, building more resilient democratic institutions, and protecting our freedom and liberal democracy.” The other is DuBose Miller, an Atlanta-based boutique firm.
Also working the St. Louis case are several other lawyers and legal organizations, including a nonprofit law clinic at the prestigious Yale Law School and the powerful, for-profit firm Dowd Bennett, based in Clayton.
Perhaps in response to the Giuliani judgment, Jim Hoft and his identical twin brother, Joe, who is a contributor to The Gateway Pundit and also a defendant, recently added to their legal team. They obtained permission from the court here to include William Charles Bundren, of Frisco, Tex. He joins St. Louis attorney Jonathan Christian Burns and Las Vegas-based Marc Randazza, along with Jay Wolman, also of Randazza Legal Group.
As with the rest of the Hofts’ legal team, it appears that Bundren and his new clients will have no problem with ideological compatibility.
According to this CNN story, Bundren became deeply immersed in Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election through his work as a lawyer for a Texas-based security company called Allied Security Operations Group (ASOG). ASOG “was part of the team enlisted by Trump’s lawyers to find evidence of widespread voter fraud after the 2020 election,” CNN reported. “Bundren helped oversee the multi-state push to access voting machines on behalf of the Trump legal team …
“Bundren also had a hands-on-role developing some of the most extreme options considered by Trump’s inner circle,” CNN reported, “including helping draft executive orders in December 2020 directing the military and DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to seize voting machines, according to a source with direct knowledge of Bundren’s role in the plan. The orders were never signed by Trump.”
A key member of that inner circle was John Eastman, who has been criminally indicted in Georgia for his role in attempting to undo the election. Eastman and Bundren appear to have some history together. In 2014, Bundren filed a motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in which he identified himself as counsel for the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. The Center has been directed by Eastman since its founding in 1999, and Eastman’s name, although not his signature, is listed below Bundren’s electronic signature in the motion’s signature block.
Bundren, however, took strenuous opposition to the CNN article in an email to the GJR. “CNN,” he wrote, “had no basis for the statements made in its article regarding Bundren Law Group, PLLC … or any of its attorneys, including Charles Bundren, Esq.” The article’s assertion that “Bundren became deeply immersed in Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election” is “false, patently false, and … without any factual bases (sic). ….Nothing in the CNN article is true.”
Bundren also denied that he had ever represented ASOG in regard to a challenge to the 2020 election results. And he asserted he had never had any connection whatsoever with Eastman. “Neither BLG (Bundren Law Group) nor Charles Bundren have ever had any relationship of any kind with John Eastman,” he wrote to GJR. “Neither BLG nor Charles Bundren have ever worked with or for, and have never provided any legal services or advice of any kind or any nature to, with or for John Eastman. Charles Bundren has never met John Eastman and has never had a conversation with John Eastman.”
Regardless, Burns, the Hofts’ St. Louis-based lawyer, is clearly more than a dispassionate hired gun where the Hofts are concerned.
In September, 2021, The Gateway Pundit announced the launch of a new website, http://www.americangulag.org, devoted to coverage of the “more than six hundred and thirty (630) people Joe Biden continues to imprison and persecute, largely for entering a public building on January 6, 2021.” Burns was identified as the site’s editor.
Burns appeared on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast on the day the new website was launched. Describing Jim Hoft as “my good friend,” he lamented the imprisonment of so many Jan. 6 participants and declared “The criminal justice system is broken in our country.”
Burns and Hoft have actually been politically aligned for a long time. In 2010, Burns denounced “socialism in your back yard” in a speech at a Tea Party rally in Clayton where Hoft served as the emcee. A news story about the event identified Burns as having been the “leader of the local Tea Party’s unsuccessful attempt to defeat Metro’s sales tax hike.”
Burns later graduated from Saint Louis University Law School and went on to specialize in personal injury law, including drunk driving cases; journalism; and civil rights, according to Justia.com, a legal profession website. Earlier this month, the Gateway Pundit identified him as its “general counsel.”
At least one of the cases in which Burns has represented Hoft in recent years has been directly relevant to the defamation suit the Hofts now face in St. Louis Circuit Court. That was a case that also involved defamation, but in which the shoe was on the other foot – it was the Hofts claiming they had been libeled.
In that case the Hofts claimed that veteran journalist Dean Sturman Miller had defamed them through a “Fact Check” story he wrote on the online site “Lead Stories.” The story debunked a piece by Joe Hoft that had appeared Oct. 29, 2020 on The Gateway Pundit: “HUGE BREAKING EXCLUSIVE: Hunter Biden Has a PornHub Account Where He Uploaded His Personal Porn – Including with Family Member.”
Burns sued in St. Louis County Circuit Court. But St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Kristine Kerr dismissed the suit in late 2021. She noted, among other things, that “the only alleged ‘defamatory statements’ listed in plaintiffs’ petition … are their own interpretations of defendant Miller’s article. Put simply, the only authors using the words ‘liar’ or ‘fraud’ when describing the plaintiffs are the plaintiffs themselves, in their own petition.”
Burns took the case to the Missouri Court of Appeals and the Missouri Supreme Court but got nowhere.
As the Gateway Journalism Review has previously reported, Marc Randazza, namesake of his Las Vegas-based firm, has previously represented Alex Jones, who was recently hit with more than $1 billion in judgments for his lies about the Sandy Hook massacre. Other clients, according to this Wikipedia profile, have included a participant in the planning of the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. who used the pseudonym “Kristall.night,” an apparent reference to Kristallnach, a pogrom the Nazis conducted against Jews in 1938.
An earlier version of this story was published before Bundren’s comment denying the CNN report or any relationship with John Eastman.
Paul Wagman is a former Post-Dispatch reporter and FleishmanHillard executive who is now an independent reporter, editor and communications consultant.