You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Texas man charged with threatening election, government officials in Georgia

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 1/21/2022 Matt Zapotosky
A voter cast a ballot at a polling place in Norcross, Ga., on Nov. 3, 2020. © AUDRA MELTON A voter cast a ballot at a polling place in Norcross, Ga., on Nov. 3, 2020.

A Texas man was arrested Friday and charged with threatening election and other government officials in Georgia, in the first case brought by a Justice Department task force formed to combat such threats, authorities said.

In an indictment, federal prosecutors alleged that Chad Christopher Stark, 54, posted a message on Craigslist on Jan. 5, 2021, saying it was “time to kill” an official, whose name is not included in the court documents.

“Georgia Patriots it’s time for us to take back our state from these Lawless treasonous traitors. It’s time to invoke our Second Amendment right it’s time to put a bullet in the treasonous Chinese [Official A]. Then we work our way down to [Official B] the local and federal corrupt judges,” Stark wrote, according to the indictment.

Georgia officials, in particular, were targeted by a flood of hostile messages after they refused to back former president Donald Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud. Trump called Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger the “enemy of the people” after the election went against him, and he urged Raffensperger in a phone call to “find” enough votes to overturn his defeat.

On that call, Trump took aim at Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and a low-level election worker who herself was subjected to a wave of threats. Trump called that worker “a vote scammer, a professional vote scammer and hustler.”

Georgia, though, was hardly an anomaly. Election officials across the country have warned about an ongoing barrage of criticism and personal attacks — many of them fueled by Trump repeatedly raising doubts about the 2020 election. Some elections workers and officials have left their posts in fear. A study by the Brennan Center released in June found that 1 in 3 election officials feels unsafe because of their jobs.

Kenneth Polite Jr., head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said the election threats task force has received more than 850 referrals of potentially harassing and offensive statements, resulting in dozens of open investigations or efforts to mitigate danger. “During the 2020 election cycle, and the events that followed, these unsung heroes came under unprecedented verbal attack for doing nothing more than their jobs,” Polite said.

Some election workers and observers have worried the Justice Department was not moving aggressively enough to prosecute those making the threats, noting that — until Friday — the task force that was launched on June 25 had not brought a single case.

“There is an impression that bad actors are not being held accountable, and they can use threats to try to intimidate election officials,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, said in an interview before Stark’s arrest.

“I do appreciate them launching the task force, but I do think there’s a lot of work to do,” she said.

In a statement Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed the department would “hold accountable those who violate federal law by using violence or threatening violence to target election workers fulfilling their public duties.”

Polite said developing cases often requires months of work, as investigators gather evidence, interview witnesses and consider possible First Amendment legal issues.

John Keller, principal deputy chief of Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, said in a written statement that threats against election workers had “historically been handled primarily as a state or local matter, usually without significant federal involvement.”

“This is changing rapidly in response to the surge in threats nationwide since the last election cycle,” he said.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon