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Conservative hoaxers face charges over false voter robocalls

Published on October 1, 2020 11:50 PM
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Two conservative operatives were charged Thursday in connection with false robocalls that aimed to dissuade Black residents in Detroit and other Democratic-leaning U.S. cities from voting by mail, Michigan?s attorney general announced.

Jacob Wohl, 22, and Jack Burkman, 54, each face four felony counts in Detroit, including conspiring to intimidate voters in violation of election law and using a computer to commit crimes, Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

The calls falsely warned residents in majority-Black Detroit and cities in at least four other states that if they vote by mail in the Nov. 3 election they could be subjected to arrest, debt collection and forced vaccination, Nessel said.

The men, who have a history of staging hoaxes and spreading lies about prominent Democrats and government officials, are not in custody, and no date for their arraignments has been set.

Nessel said her office would work with local law enforcement to secure their appearances, saying they could face arrest and extradition or could voluntarily travel to Michigan to face the charges.

The charges carry the potential for years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. The computer charges carry up to seven years apiece, while election law violations could bring up to five.

Nessel?s office warned the public about the calls and launched an investigation in August after thousands of Detroit residents received them.

Wohl and Burkman both denied involvement at the time. Burkman didn?t reply to a Thursday voicemail seeking comment and Wohl didn?t reply to an email.

Nessel said the investigation found that Burkman and Wohl created and funded the robocalls to deter voters of color from participating in the November election.

?We?re all well aware of the frustrations caused by the millions of nuisance robocalls flooding our cellphones and landlines each day, but this particular message poses grave consequences for our democracy and the principles upon which it was built,? Nessel said. ?Michigan voters are entitled to a full, free and fair election in November, and my office will not hesitate to pursue those who jeopardize that.?

The pair was behind 85,000 calls nationwide, including nearly 12,000 in Detroit?s 313 area code, Nessel said. Similar calls also blanketed urban pockets of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and New York, she said. She encouraged anyone who received such a call to file a ...