AUSTIN, Texas—Defense Distributed announced Tuesday that founder Cody Wilson had resigned from the company as of last Friday. The company is now under new leadership—Paloma Heindorff is taking over as director. Previously, Heindorff served as a vice president focused on development and operations during her three years with Defense Distributed.
“He’s been an incredibly powerful figure, but this is about an idea,” Heindorff said when asked how the company will move on from its founder.
Wilson’s resignation comes after allegations of sexually assaulting an underage girl led to the 3D-printed gun activist’s arrest last Friday in Taiwan. Wilson had previously skipped his return flight from the country in a reported attempt to evade authorities. While overseas, Wilson posed as a student and attempted to make a down payment on a Taipei rental.
Taiwanese and American authorities worked together to eventually apprehend Wilson and deport the man back to Texas. He was booked at the Harris County Jail in Houston over the weekend and released on bond. Wilson has yet to be formally arraigned.
Heindorff is from the United Kingdom, where firearms are highly regulated. She arrived in the United States in 2015. Defense Distributed’s new director said that she had previously been professionally active in arts and poetry circles (seriously), but upon moving to the US (first to New York City) she eventually settled in Austin to specifically work for Defense Distributed. It is unclear what her background in firearms is or if she has any prior experience running a controversial company facing active civil litigation.
When asked how she came to work for Defense Distributed, Heindorff simply said she admired the company from afar.
“It’s the most effective and elegant activism I’d seen performed and I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.
Again and again during the press conference, Heindorff refused to answer questions about Wilson’s criminal accusations. All the new director would confirm is that Wilson’s resignation on Friday was not the only contact he’s had with the company. “Cody and I had been speaking, as it’s important to ensure a smooth transition for the company,” she said.
Wilson founded the digital firearms company back in 2012, and he has been its public face ever since. When Ars visited the offices unannounced on Friday, Defense Distributed’s Stephen Sheftall hinted at what today’s press conference would entail: “a management restructuring is coming.” Heindorff said Wilson’s resignation was his own decision and that he would have no involvement going forward.
Heindorff confirmed that business has tried to push forward as normal since news of Wilson’s situation broke last Wednesday. She described employees as “resilient” and said “99 percent” of Defense Distributed staff still felt confident in the company and this path forward. “No one has a missed a beat,” Heindorff said. “People are reporting to work and we’re fulfilling shipments.”
During an extended Q&A session, one reporter asked if Heindorff was prepared to become the public face of all Defense Distributed’s efforts. In the reporter’s words, Wilson had made the position so controversial and adversarial, building a volatile relationship with the federal government.
“Well, you don’t know my relationship yet,” Heindorff quickly replied. “But I’m a different person; that’s not my aim. And I think everyone involved knows that.”
Attorneys Josh Blackman and Chad Flores joined Heindorff on stage to field any questions related to Defense Distributed’s ongoing case against various state attorney generals. Blackman noted the case should be unaffected by Wilson’s legal situation and will move forward. The attorneys noted they don’t have any involvement in Wilson’s personal legal situation (there’s a separate team of attorneys) and that no Defense Distributed money will go toward that effort (Heindorff mentioned earlier that Defense Distributed’s legal fund for the states case has reached $400,000).