One of the first cases filed by a federal task force dedicated to safeguarding elections workers nationally from escalating threats resulted in an 18-month jail term for a Nebraska man on Thursday. The guy had threatened Colorado‘s top elections official online.
The verdict was handed down on the same day that an Iowa man was arrested for allegedly threatening a public official and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office through voicemail.
U.S. District Court in Lincoln, Nebraska, is where Travis Ford was given his sentence. At the beginning of the year, he entered a guilty plea to charges that he had made online threats against Secretary of State Jena Griswold.
The U.S. Justice Department’s Poll Threats Task Force, established last year following the 2020 presidential campaign out of worries about the possible impact of threats against election officials and workers on democracy, has secured its first guilty plea.
Griswold, a national leader in election security, has received hundreds of death threats for denying that the 2020 election was stolen, as falsely claimed by former President Donald Trump.
On January 11th, Ford is due to report to a federal prison, and she will remain there for a year before being released to a year of post-release monitoring.
On Thursday, Ford told the judge he takes full responsibility for his acts and realizes they were wrong. He expressed his regret, saying, “I am sorry and humiliated that I have put myself and my family through this.”
Threats of violence, Griswold said, must never become routine.
Her statement said, “Those who threaten electoral officials must be held responsible.” To undermine democracy, threats are being made to election officials.
Similarly, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement saying, “This sentence makes clear that individuals who improperly intimidate election workers should be prepared to face serious sanctions.”
Since there is “a clear need for general deterrence here,” federal prosecutors argued for a two-year jail term. Ford’s threats were uncovered by detectives to have been posted many times last year on an Instagram account created by his brother. Moreover, the prosecution claims that Ford threatened the lives of Vice President Joe Biden and the head of an unnamed technological business. The claims against Ford were never filed as charges.
Lawyer Jason Troia argued for a reduced sentence on his behalf. He said that Ford’s job record was stellar, that the threats were out of character, and that Ford had been pressured into making them by the government due to his opposition to the COVID-19 vaccination.
Those arguments were shot down by U.S. District Judge John M. Gerrard, who said that having a job is “nothing unique” and highlighted Ford’s escalating threats over the course of three months. It was “total folly,” he said, to argue against vaccination requirements.
The prosecution claims that in August of this year, Ford sent Griswold several threatening Instagram messages. It asked, “Do you feel safe? It’s not a good idea. Another translation: “Your security team is too small and inexperienced to keep you safe.” Anything may happen to anybody at any time in today’s chaotic society.
Despite having a close connection with his family and fiancé, being in excellent health, and earning a fair livelihood, federal authorities said there was nothing to explain why Ford made such threats.
Threats against elections workers around the nation are a continuing and extremely serious concern, despite the fact that “the government does not now have grounds to suspect that defendant would conduct similar acts here in the future,” as stated by prosecutors.
Further, they said that a recent study indicated that 1 in 6 election officials had received threats due to their work, and that 77% of those polled believe the number of threats has grown over the last several years.
Because Ford had no prior record and his contrition seemed sincere, the court decided to lower his sentence to 18 months.
Mark Rissi, 64, of Hiawatha, Iowa, was arrested Thursday, the Justice Department said. Rissi is accused of leaving a voicemail for Republican Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman in September 2021. The prosecution claims that Rissi’s communication implied that Hickman would be lynched.
No, this was not a joke call. It’s safe to say this isn’t free speech. Hickman stated Thursday that he and his family had been “seriously threatened” by the threats made against election workers over the previous two years. He also criticized other Arizona authorities for being silent throughout this time.