According to new reports, the Justice Department has charged Walter Lee Hoornstra of Missouri for making death threats against an Arizona election worker. Hoornstra, acting on behalf of Donald Trump’s “big lie” about the election being stolen from him, became the sixth federal criminal case brought for threats against election workers across the country.
Hoornstra, 50, of of Ozark County, Missouri, was charged in an indictment last Tuesday with one count of communicating an interstate commerce threat and also a second count of making a threatening phone call after law enforcement alleged he left a voicemail on a Maricopa County, Arizona election official’s personal cell phone. Hoornstra’s message said “You call things unhinged and insane lies when there’s a forensic audit going on. You need to check yourself. You need to do your job right because other people from other states are watching your ass. You renege on this deal or give them any more troubles, your ass will never make it to your next little board meeting.”
If convicted, Hoonstra could face up to seven years in prison.
While the indictment did not name the election official, a spokesperson for Stephen Richer, the Maricopa County Recorder, confirmed that Richer himself is the victim in the case.
Richer took to Twitter to thank the FBI for its work on the case, but reiterated the fact that he is not the only election official facing such threats:
“Unfortunately, I have PLENTY more to keep them busy. And, even worse, so too do some of the non-public facing members,” referring to some of the county’s other recorder and elections offices.
In 2021, the DOJ launched an election threats task force due to the large increase in threats that aligned with false claims by Trump and others in his circle that the 2020 Presidential election had been stolen from him through widespread voter fraud. Arizona, and Maricopa County, the most populous in the state, was a key battleground state in that election. President Joe Biden won Maricopa County by around 45,000 votes, a crucial victory to his winning the state and the presidency. Trump’s allies then carried out an audit of the county’s votes, using a private company called Cyber Ninjas, in order to try and cast down on Trump’s loss, but state election officials put an end to it.
Last year, Reuters documented over 800 threatening messages sent to U.S. election workers, and since the DOJ’s task force was launched, they have reviewed more than 1,000 contacts reported as hostile or harassing toward election workers, even though only a little over 10% of those met the legal standards required to investigate federally.
Richer, also a Republican, drew the ire of Trump supporters in 2021, when he published a letter titled “Dear Arizona Republicans,” in which he eviscerated Trump and company’s election lies, offering proof that the Arizona votes favored Joe Biden.