PHOENIX (AP) — A Missouri man has been indicted for leaving a threatening message on the personal cell phone of the top elections official in Arizona’s most populous county, federal officials said.
The case is the second brought in the past month against people accused of threatening top election officials in the battleground state. In late July, a Massachusetts man was charged with threatening to blow up Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs following the 2020 election that former President Donald Trump lost in the state. Hobbs is a Democrat now running for governor.
The US Department of Justice announced Wednesday the indictment against Walter Lee Hoornstra, 50, of Tecumseh. He faces up to five years in federal prison on the charge of making a threatening interstate communication and up to two years in prison for making a threatening phone call.
Hoornstra is accused of threatening Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer on May 19, 2021. Richer is a Republican who won his seat during the 2020 election and has been a strong advocate for the county’s election practices and security.
Former President Donald Trump has focused the anger over his 2020 loss in Arizona on Maricopa County, with the Republican-controlled state Senate conducting a much-criticized “forensic audit” of the county’s results last year. The review found no evidence of any major issues. with the election and a manual vote count confirmed the victory of Democratic President Joe Biden.
Election officials in Arizona and other battleground states have been subjected to threats and intimidation by some Trump supporters since he lost the election.
Richer did not immediately return messages seeking comment, but in a lengthy statement on Twitter, he thanked the FBI, Justice Department and local law enforcement for going after people who threaten him and county poll workers. .
“Unfortunately, I have SO MUCH more to keep you busy,” Richer wrote. “And worse, so do some of the non-public members of the (registration and elections office).”
Richer also said he was concerned that threats like the one he received were becoming more common and worried about the effects on public officials, from US Supreme Court justices to federal judges, prosecutors, FBI agents. and others.
“And yet, violent threats and actions continue to be normalized, or at least swept under the rug, by many ‘leaders’ in society,” Richer wrote. “Anyone who says ‘oh but it was just some of them’ or ‘oh but they’re usually good people’ is contributing to this chilling effect and mob mentality.”
Public court records in Hoornstra’s case that would include a defense attorney who could comment are not yet available. The Justice Department did not disclose whether he was arrested and did not immediately respond to messages.
In late July, the FBI arrested James W. Clark, 38, of Falmouth, Massachusetts, on a three-count indictment charging him with threatening to explode a bomb in the Secretary of State’s “personal space.” Democrat Katie Hobbs did. not to give up
Clark made an initial appearance in federal court in Phoenix on Wednesday, where his attorney pleaded not guilty. The attorney said in a court filing that Clark is homeless and lives in a sober house in Boston. Assistant Federal Public Defender Jeanette Alvarado did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.
During the hearing, the trial magistrate, Judge John Z. Boyle, maintained Clark’s original release conditions and added one, that he not possess firearms or other deadly weapons or explosives. He remains free without bail.
Clark faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of making the bomb threat and five years for each of the other charges, according to the US Justice Department.
Attorney General Merrick Garland formed an Election Threats Task Force in June 2021 to focus on threats of violence against elected election officials, workers, and volunteers to ensure they can oversee elections without harassment. The cases against Clark and Hoornstra are part of that effort.
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