Justice Department charges Texas man over threat to ‘put a bullet’ in Georgia election officials

FBI agents have arrested a Texas man accused of using Craigslist to call for the killing of election administrators and other officials the day before a mob stormed the halls of Congress on 6 January, 2021.

Federal prosecutors have accused Chad Stark of using the website to issue a call for “Georgia Patriots” to “put a bullet” in federal, state and local officials, according to a three-page indictment filed on 21 January.

“Georgia Patriots it’s time to kill,” Mr Stark said in his post, according to the indictment.

“It’s time to invoke our Second Amendment … it’s time to put a bullet in the treasonous Chinese [Official A],” he wrote, according to prosecutors. “Then we work our way down to [another official] the[n] local and federal corrupt judges.”

He goes on to threaten a third official, identified as Official C.

“One good loyal Patriot deer hunter in camo and a rifle can send a very clear message to these corrupt governors,” he wrote, according to the indictment. “Milita [sic] up Georgia it’s time to spill blood … we need to pay a visit to [Official C] and her family as well and put a bullet her behind the ear.”

Mr Stark was charged with one count of communicating an interstate threat.

It marks the first criminal case brought forward from an Election Threats Task Force under the US Department of Justice, which launched the agency last summer to combat rising threats of violence against election workers.

“There is no First Amendment right to unlawfully threaten to harm or kill someone,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in remarks to the US Conference of Mayors on Friday.

“The Justice Department will continue to do all it can to hold accountable those who target public servants with violence,” he said

A persistent lie and conspiracy theories falsely claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump, and a baseless narrative that votes were manipulated to undermine the outcome, have fuelled attacks and threats of violence against nonpartisan election workers while also mobilising Republican campaigns for public office.

One in three election workers feel unsafe because of their jobs, and one in six workers have faced threats as they help run the nation’s elections, according to a 2021 report from the Brennan Center Center for Justice at the New York School of Law.

“All of this represents a mortal danger to American democracy, which cannot survive without public servants who can freely and fairly run our elections,” the report found.

Reuters identified more than 100 threats of death or violence against election workers, and hundreds of reports of intimidation and harassment.

Two women in Georgia are suing the far-right conspiracy website Gateway Pundit for defamation, alleging that the site and its owners knowingly published false stories that triggered abuse that forced one woman to leave her home for two months, on the advice of the FBI.

Those lies were repeated by Mr Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani and the former president himself, who mentioned one of the workers by name 18 times during a call in which he appeared to press Georgia officials to “find” votes to swing the state’s election results.

That call is at the centre of an investigation from Fulton County’s top prosecutor, District Attorney Fani Willis, who is seeking a special grand jury as part of her probe into “coordinated attempts to unlawfully alter the outcome” of the election.

In a statement on Thursday, Trump lashed out at the request, insisting that he “didn’t say anything wrong” and that his call with Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger – whom Mr Trump suggested could be criminally prosecuted if his office did not follow through with the former president’s claims – was “perfect”.


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