20 have been charged for threatening election workers around the country: Feds



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A concerted Justice Department effort to prosecute those who threatened election workers since 2020 has resulted in 20 prosecutions, the department announced Monday.

The news comes as Arizona prosecutors announced the sentencing of a man who threatened to kill Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-Ariz.) in 2022, who previously served as the Arizona Secretary of State.

More than half a dozen of the 20 prosecutions resulted in jail sentences of more than a year, U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino, the top prosecutor in Arizona, said in a press conference.

“Let these cases be a lesson not to take or attempt to take the rule of law into one’s own hands,” he said.

The Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force was formed in 2021 to respond to threats related to 2020 election denialism. Made popular by right-wing fringes of the GOP and quickly picked up by former President Trump and other notable politicians, the notion that the 2020 and 2022 elections were “rigged” still holds strong among some Americans.

The idea is especially strong in Arizona, where the pivotal swing state went to President Biden in 2020 after a lengthy vote count, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, now running for Senate in the state, claimed Hobbs fraudulently won her election in 2022.

Task force head John Dixon Keller said that a majority of the thousands of tips received don’t result in criminal cases but remain important to keep the legitimacy of elections.

“Death threats are not debate. Death threats do not contribute to the marketplace of ideas,” he said. “Death threats are not a protected constitutional right.”

In Monday’s case, Joshua Russell was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for multiple phone call death threats against Hobbs.

Russell left three voicemails with the Arizona Secretary of State’s office threatening Hobbs’ life, beginning on the date of the Arizona primary elections in 2022 and continuing through the general election.

“You’re the enemy of the United States, you’re a traitor to this country, and you better put your sh[inaudible], your [expletive] affairs in order, ’cause your days [inaudible] are extremely numbered,” Russell said in the first message, according to the Department of Justice. “America’s coming for you, and you will pay with your life, you communist [expletive] traitor [expletive].”

Attorney General Merrick Garland reiterated in a statement that the department will continue to target those who threaten election workers.

“If you threaten violence against the public servants who administer our elections, there will be consequences,” Garland said in a statement. “The right to vote, which is the cornerstone of our democracy, relies on the ability of election workers and election officials to perform their duties without fearing for their lives. The Justice Department will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who threaten these public servants.”

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