RICHMOND—A prominent defamation lawyer warned state Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel on Wednesday to preserve computer, cellphone and other records that might be linked to an anonymous email accusing one of her Republican primary rivals of having an affair.
Elizabeth M. Locke—who represented a former University of Virginia associate dean who successfully sued Rolling Stone last year over a discredited gang-rape story—also pressed Vogel (R-Fauquier) in a letter to submit her home computers and cellphones to a third-party forensics examination.
Vogel is seeking her party’s nomination for lieutenant governor. Also competing for the nod is state Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr. (Virginia Beach) and state Sen. Bryce E. Reeves (R-Spotsylvania).
Both Vogel and Reeves represent parts of Culpeper County in the General Assembly.
Late last year, anonymous messages targeting Reeves were linked through subpoenaed internet records to Vogel’s home IP address and to her husband’s cellphone. Vogel, who has strongly denied any involvement or knowledge of the messages, has suggested that hackers are to blame.
Reeves has been pressing for a forensics analysis since late December, offering to help pay for it, but Vogel has not responded. His hiring of Locke, who also represents a Virginia gun rights group in a pending defamation suit against Katie Couric over a documentary on gun violence, could turn up the pressure.
“It’s been 32 days since Bryce offered to help pay for the Vogels to have their electronic devices forensically tested by an independent, third-party investigator,” said Sam Azzarelli, Reeves’s campaign spokeswoman. “All of this could have been resolved a month ago, allowing everyone to move on, but the Vogels still have not acknowledged or accepted his generous offer.”
Vogel declined to comment on Locke’s letter.
When Reeves first disclosed the connection between the emails and the Vogels’ electronics on Dec. 31, Vogel’s campaign issued this statement: “Jill and Alex Vogel have not sent, have not authorized, have not approved, and were not aware of any anonymous communications concerning either of her competitors for the Republican nomination. They would never condone such tactics, nor would they permit a campaign employee or volunteer to do so on behalf of our campaign. . . . Regrettably, in this day and age, there are many ways a person can send an anonymous email and make it appear to have originated from another sender.”