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Judge Refuses to Seal Names of ‘Kraken’ Witnesses Who Have Asked to Remain Anonymous, Readies for Sanctions Hearing Against Lin Wood and Sidney Powell


Sidney Powell and Lin Wood appeared together at a so-called “Stop the Steal” rally in Georgia on Dec. 2, 2020.

Days before a hearing to decide whether “Kraken” lawyers Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and their co-counsel should face heavy sanctions, a federal judge denied an old motion to keep three of the supposed witnesses’ identities under seal. Two of the once-secret witnesses in that litigation have been revealed via public reporting late last year.

The “Kraken” is the name Powell gave to her legal team’s multi-armed effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s victories in Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgia following the 2020 election. After all four efforts failed, the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit gunned for punishment against the team of lawyers which filed the case in the Wolverine State. The state filed complaints directly with the bar, and Detroit asked a federal judge to refer every “Kraken” lawyer who appeared in the Michigan prong of the legal offensive for disbarment proceedings.

That sanctions hearing is currently scheduled for Monday morning, but U.S. District Judge Linda Parker, who will determine the lawyers’ fate, resolved some unfinished business first on Friday.

Among other points of a four-page ruling, Judge Parker rejected Powell’s request to seal the names of three supposed “witnesses” she claimed would suffer “grave risk of harm” should their identities be disclosed.

Unimpressed with the request, Parker noted: “Courts have long recognized a ‘strong presumption in favor of openness’ regarding court records.”

Though precedent mandates only the “most compelling reasons” can justify secrecy, Parker ruled that Powell offered only “mere speculation and conclusory statements of possible harm” to unidentified people.

As the Washington Post reported, at least two of the once-secret “Kraken” witnesses had inflated their credentials, did not disclose their checkered pasts, and appeared to make false statements on sworn affidavits. One such witness, alternately code-named “Spider” and “Spyder,” was revealed by the paper to be Joshua Merritt, who was touted as a “military intelligence expert” but was actually an army vehicle mechanic—and reportedly never worked in military intelligence.

Another witness, Terpsichore “Tore” Maras-Lindeman, was billed as a secret intelligence contractor but was depicted by the Post as a small-town fraudster because of her civil prosecution in North Dakota that led to more than $25,000 in penalties and attorneys’ fees for allegedly duping donors a supposed Christmas fundraiser. A pro-Trump podcaster, her Navy experience reportedly lasted less than a year.

The judge’s ruling denying the sealing of such witnesses is a boon for Detroit’s lawyer David Fink, whose motion requesting sanctions cites the secret supposed informants as an example of the “Kraken” team’s “fraud on the court.”

“For instance, Plaintiffs claim that their self-proclaimed experts include a military intelligence analyst, but when they accidentally disclosed his name, the ‘expert’ was revealed to have washed out of the training course for military intelligence,” he wrote in January. “Plaintiffs’ counsel did not redact the information to ‘protect’ the ‘informant,’ they did so to hide their fraud on the court.”

Resolving a handful of other motions, Judge Parker set aside remaining motions to dismiss the matter as moot because the “Kraken” team voluntarily withdrew their lawsuit after their first stinging defeat late last year. Detroit sought to secure judicial notice of a Republican-led Michigan Senate Oversight report affirming that election fraud claims were bogus, but Judge Parker found any additional material would be unnecessary to decide the matter before her.

“The Court does not require supplemental briefing to assess its ability to sanction Attorney L. Lin Wood in this case,” she wrote.

Every lawyer who signed pleadings or briefs for the “Kraken” team in Michigan must appear via Zoom at Monday’s hearing, including Wood, Powell, Stefanie Junttila, Scott Hagerstrom, Julia Haller, Brandon Johnson, Howard Kleinhendler, and Gregory Rohl.

Read the judge’s ruling below:

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."