Court Battles

Texas man arrested for death threats to election officials

A Texas man who allegedly made election-related threats targeting government officials was arrested Friday in the first criminal case brought by a Department of Justice (DOJ) unit established last summer to bolster election security.

Defendant Chad Stark, a 54-year-old resident of Leander, Texas, was charged with one count of communicating interstate threats, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. According to a federal indictment, Stark posted a message to Craigslist that called on “Georgia Patriots” to kill government officials, offering an apparent bounty of $10,000.

“Georgia Patriots it’s time for us to take back our state from these Lawless treasonous traitors,” Stark’s post read in part, according to the indictment, which redacted government officials’ names. “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.”

The prosecution marks the first criminal case brought by the DOJ’s Election Threats Task Force, an interagency unit launched last summer as part of the Biden administration’s effort to combat violent threats against election workers. The number of such threats and harassment spiked around the 2020 presidential election, fueled primarily by former President Trump’s lies about his electoral defeat, according to experts.

The DOJ task force pools resources from multiple entities within the department, including its criminal, civil rights and national security divisions, as well as from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said Friday’s arrest demonstrates the bureau’s commitment to pursuing those who threaten election officials with violence.

“Election workers striving to protect our right to a fair and democratic process deserve nothing less than the utmost safety and assurance they can accomplish their roles without interference,” he said in a statement. “The FBI will continue to focus on our mission of protecting these individuals and the important work they do, as well as every American’s right to vote.”

Stark was slated to make his initial appearance Friday afternoon at an Austin, Texas, federal courthouse. DOJ officials said his case is being investigated by the FBI’s Atlanta field office. 

An April survey of local election workers found that nearly 1 in 6 respondents received threats of violence and almost 1 in 3 said they feel unsafe because of their job, according to the Brennan Center for Justice poll.

The surge in violent threats has prompted growing alarm among Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates of a mass exodus by experienced election workers and administrators.

Tags 2020 election Christopher Wray Department of Justice Donald Trump

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