Texas man charged with threatening to kill Georgia election officials
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Friday charged a Texas man with publicly calling for the assassination of Georgia election officials the day before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The case is the first brought by the department’s Election Threats Task Force, an agency created last summer to deal with threats to elections and election workers. Federal prosecutors have charged the man, Chad Christopher Stark, 54, of Leander, Texas, with calling on the ‘Georgia Patriots’ to ‘put a bullet’ in a Georgia election official the indictment calls official A.
Mr Stark, according to the three-page indictment, made the threat in a post on Craigslist, the online message board, as then-President Donald J. Trump and his allies pressured public about Brad Raffensperger, the Georgian Secretary of State. who certified Mr. Trump’s defeat in Georgia to Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Georgia Patriots, it is time for us to take back our state from these lawless traitors,” Mr. Stark wrote, according to the indictment. “It’s time to invoke our Second Amendment, it’s time to put a bullet in Chinese traitors [Official A]. Then we go down to [Official B] corrupt local and federal judges.
Mr. Stark was charged with one count of interstate threat communication.
The Craigslist posting came at a time of intense political pressure against election officials in battleground states. Mr Trump had telephoned Mr Raffensperger on January 2 last year and asked him to “find” nearly 12,000 votes to undo Mr Biden’s victory in Georgia. The post was released on Jan. 5, a day before a Trump-inspired mob attacked the United States Capitol in a bid to block Congress from certifying Mr. Biden as the next president.
An Atlanta district attorney on Thursday asked a judge to convene a special grand jury to help with a criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. If the investigation continues, legal experts say the former president’s potential criminal exposure could include charges of racketeering or conspiracy to commit voter fraud.
Mr. Raffensperger did not confirm on Friday whether he was among the election officials targeted.
“I strongly condemn threats against election workers and those who volunteer in elections,” he said in a statement. “It’s the people who make our democracy work.”
Kenneth A. Polite Jr., head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said Friday the task force was reviewing more than 850 reports of threats against election officials and had opened dozens of criminal investigations.
During the 2020 election cycle and immediately after, election workers “have suffered unprecedented verbal abuse for doing nothing more than their job,” Polite told reporters on Friday. “As the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General have both previously emphasized: we will not tolerate intimidation by those who protect our electoral system.”
The task force, created last June by Assistant Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, has developed a system to log and track all reported threats against election officials and FBI agents, and federal prosecutors have been trained to take, assess and investigate allegations. Polite said the task force’s priority is to find ways to improve the security of state and local election officials.
The Texas case represents the task force’s first indictment and arrest. Mr. Polite declined to give details of what Mr. Stark may have planned to do.
“The communication here speaks for itself,” Mr Polite said, referring to Mr Stark’s Craigslist post offering $10,000 and calling on “Patriots” to “exterminate these people”.
In addition to the two Georgian election officials, Mr. Stark’s Craigslist post also threatened a third Georgian official.
Key figures from the January 6 survey
He wrote: “militate in Georgia, it’s time to shed blood…. we have to visit [Official C] and his family too and put a bullet behind his ears.
An aide to Stacey Abrams, the Democrat from Georgia who is running for governor, said he did not know if Ms Abrams was official C.
Threats against Georgia election officials continued long after the state finished counting and recounting votes in its 2020 presidential contest. Two low-level workers that Mr. Trump and his right-wing media allies falsely accused of counting fraudulent votes sued the Gateway Pundit website, One America News Network and Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, for spreading lies about their conduct.
Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican, was heavily blamed by Trump allies for certifying Mr. Biden’s victory. He faces a main challenge this year from Representative Jody Hice of Georgia, who has embraced many of Mr. Trump’s false claims about the election.
Mr. Stark could not be reached for comment. His first court appearance was in Austin, Texas on Friday afternoon, and the judge appointed the Federal Public Defender’s Office to represent him. He was released on bail and his arraignment was set for February 4 in Atlanta. Mr. Stark faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Katie Benner contributed report. Kirsten Noyes contributed to the research.