Dell held in contempt in New Orleans camera case


An Orleans Parish judge has held Dell in contempt of court for failing to provide company e-mails relating to an ill-fated deal to provide the city with crime cameras, the New Orleans Times Picayune reports.

Dell is one of multiple defendants in a case brought by New Orleans’ initial crime camera suppliers, Southern Electronic and Active Solutions, who are claiming that a handful of tech companies and some less-than-scrupulous city officials (including the mayor) conspired to steal their camera technology.

Dell had been threatened with contempt in May, when the judge ordered Michael Dell, CEO of the computer giant to testify in person, and balked that the company was dragging its feet when asked to provide internal documents.

Dell’s attorney had argued that the CEO had not met with Mayor Ray Nagin, and that he had no knowledge of any deal with the city. Documents have since emerged to show that the meeting took place in 2004, and that Dell was briefed on the camera deal, the Picayune reported.

The judge got angry when Dell’s attorneys produced what she considered an incomplete body of evidence, after having been ordered to search Michael Dell’s personal files and those of his deputy, Troy West.

Here’s the money quote from Judge Rose Ledet, dismissing Dell attorney Phil Wittmann’s protestation that searching the files by terms like “cameras” and “public safety” would :

“Dell is in the business of computers, Mr. Wittmann. How can they not find the documents, how can they not search the e-mails? You’re making a mockery of the system here. Read my lips, Dell is in contempt.”

Ouch. Dell was ordered to pay $25,000 to the plaintiffs to cover court costs.

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