Texas Man Arrested for Allegedly Issuing Death Threats to Georgia State Election Workers
22:01 GMT 21.01.2022 (Updated: 13:27 GMT 06.08.2022)
© AP Photo / Mike StewartCobb County Election officials prepare for a recount, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. County election workers across Georgia have begun an official machine recount of the roughly 5 million votes cast in the presidential race in the state. The recount was requested by President Donald Trump after certified results showed him losing the state to Democrat Joe Biden by 12,670 votes, or 0.25%
© AP Photo / Mike Stewart
Election and government officials in Georgia received an influx of threatening messages after then-US President Donald Trump slammed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), the state's top election official, as an "enemy of the people" for rejecting false claims of widespread voter fraud and not contesting the 2020 presidential results.
Chad Stark, a 54-year-old resident of Leander, Texas, was arrested by federal agents on Friday, accused of issuing threatening election-related messages to Georgia state government officials on January 5, 2021—a day before the deadly US Capitol riot.
Stark was scheduled to make a same-day appearance at a federal courthouse in Austin, Texas.
The Texas resident, formally charged with one count of 'communicating interstate threats,' is at the center of the first criminal case to be brought by the US Department of Justice's Election Threats Task Force.
Active since June 2021, the DoJ election task force has been communicating with state and local law enforcement, as well as the election community to assess allegations of threats against election workers, according to the department. The DOJ task force is partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
"The Justice Department has a responsibility not only to protect the right to vote, but also to protect those who administer our voting systems from violence and illegal threats of violence," said US Attorney General Merrick Garland in a quoted statement.
The federal indictment claims that Stark on January 5, 2021, posted to Craigslist.org: "Georgia Patriots it’s time to kill [Official A] the Chinese agent - $10,000."
The bounty post called on "Georgia Patriots" to "take back" the state and "invoke our Second Amendment right" by assassinating an election worker whose name has been redacted in court filings. It also said that "American Patriots" in Georgia have to "spill blood."
If convicted, Stark faces up to five years behind bars. Sentencing will be determined by a federal district court judge.
"Election workers striving to protect our right to a fair and democratic process deserve nothing less than the utmost safety and assurance they can accomplish their roles without interference," said FBI Director Christopher Wray. "The FBI will continue to focus on our mission of protecting these individuals and the important work they do, as well as every American’s right to vote."
A June survey by New York University’s nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found that one in three US election workers feel unsafe on the job, and one in six of those surveyed said they have been threatened doing their job.
"Threats of violence, smear campaigns, laws and lawsuits undermining election officials at every turn–this is what the professionals who uphold our elections and democracy are facing every day," said Lawrence Norden, director of the Center's Election Reform Program.