Two right-wing operatives who have become known for dreaming up outrageous conspiracy theories are now facing felony charges in Michigan because they allegedly tried to intimidate voters with false robocalls that sought to discourage urban residents from voting by mail.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman face four felonies, including intimidating voters and conspiracy to violate election law, and using a computer to commit a crime.
Nessel said that the calls, which went to thousands of residents from at least five states, were meant to target minority voters and were meant to discourage absentee voting vote by mail rather than in person due to the pandemic.
Each charge against the pair carries a five- or seven-year sentence if they are convicted in Michigan — adding up to a maximum 12 years as some sentences for the charges would be concurrent.
Wohl and Burkman, who live in Los Angeles and Arlington, Va., respectively, have not yet been arraigned, Nessel’s office said, adding that it is “too early to say if formal extradition will be necessary or if they will present themselves here voluntarily in the very near future.”
In Detroit, close to 12,000 residents in the 313 area code were targeted, according to Nessel’s office. The attorneys general in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois have said that similar robocalls were made to urban residents in those states which brings the total to an estimated 85,000 calls nationwide.
The calls feature a caller claiming to work for a civil rights organization founded by Wohl and Burkman, who then falsely states that those who vote by mail will have their personal information shared with police, credit card companies, and the CDC.
The caller then stresses that the voter not be “finessed into giving your private information to the man.” Officials also say that the calls exploited “racially charged stereotypes.”
Nessel said in a statement:
“Any effort to interfere with, intimidate or intentionally mislead Michigan voters will be met with swift and severe consequences. This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election. We’re all well aware of the frustrations caused by the millions of nuisance robocalls flooding our cell phones and landlines each day, but this particular message poses grave consequences for our democracy and the principles upon which it was built. 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.”
Wohl and Burkman have not given any statements on the issue since the announcement of their charges. When the news of the robocall first came out in August, they denied any involvement, rather blaming “leftist pranksters.”
Wohl and Burkman have become infamous for conspiracy theories and have actually been kicked off of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for their outrageous claims, which have included fake sexual assault accusations against Robert Mueller and Pete Buttigieg.