Texas man arrested for alleged threat to kill Georgia election official day before Trump Capitol riot

Politics

A Gwinnett county worker raises a piece of paper saying that they have a question as they begin their recount of the ballots on November 13, 2020 in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Megan Varner | Getty Images

A Texas man was arrested Friday for allegedly posting a threat to kill a Georgia election official and other officials just days after then-President Donald Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” votes that could reverse his loss to President Joe Biden.

The case against 54-year-old Chad Stark of Leander, Texas, is the first criminal prosecution filed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Election Threats Task Force, which was formed last June on the heels of widespread baseless claims by Trump and his allies of election fraud.

Stark, who has an extensive criminal history, is accused of posting a message on Craigslist on Jan. 5, 2021, with the subject: “Georgia Patriots it’s time to kill [Official A] the Chinese agent – $10,000.”

That official was identified as a state election worker, and the message was written on the same day as the runoff elections for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats that were won by Democratic challengers, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

In the message itself, Stark wrote, “Georgia Patriots it’s time for us to take back our state from these Lawless treasonous traitors. It’s time to invoke our Second Amendment right it’s time to put a bullet in the treasonous Chinese [Official A],” an indictment issued by a grand jury in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia alleges.

“Then we work our way down to [Official B] the local and federal corrupt judges,” Stark wrote, the indictment charges.

“We need to pay a visit to [Official C] and her family as well and put a bullet her behind the ears,” the message continued according to the indictment, just a day before a mob of Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol in a fury over false allegations that Trump had lost to Biden due to ballot fraud.

The case against Stark was announced a day after the top state prosecutor in Atlanta asked a judge to empanel a special grand jury to help her pursue a criminal investigation of Trump and others for possible illegal interference with Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

Stark is due to appear Friday afternoon in federal court in Austin, Texas, on one count of interstate threats.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice files show that Stark has a criminal record dating back to at least 1997, when he was arrested on a felony charge related to the manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance. Stark later pleaded guilty in the case, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, records show.

His probation in that case was revoked after a subsequent arrest related to a controlled substance in 2001, for which he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Records show he was arrested in 2011 on a charge of aggravated sexual assault in a case involving a child, which was later reduced to a lesser charge of reckless injury to a child. He was sentenced to three years or probation in that case.

Trump on Friday morning issued a new statement blasting the criminal probe of his pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call, in which he repeated his false claims of election fraud in the state.

“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump told Raffensperger in that call.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger holds up election mail that he said arrived for his son, who is deceased, during a news conference on election results in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., December 2, 2020.
Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters

On Friday, Trump said, “So let me get this straight, I am being investigated in Georgia for asking an attorney general with many lawyers and others knowingly on the phone to look for corruption, which definitely took place in the Georgia presidential election — but the people who committed the crime are in no way, shape or form under investigation and are instead being protected?”

Following Stark’s arrest, U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine of the Northern District of Georgia said in a statement, “The intimidation of those in charge of carrying out free and fair elections in this country is against the law and cannot go unchecked.”

“When someone threatens an election official working at any level of the voting process – whether that be an elected office holder or a volunteer poll worker – our democracy is put in jeopardy,” Erskine said.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice, in advance of the one year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.
Carolyn Kaster | Pool | Reuters

Attorney General Merrick Garland in a speech Friday to the U.S. Conference of Mayors said, “There is no First Amendment right to unlawfully threaten to harm or kill someone.”

“The Justice Department will continue to do all it can to hold accountable those who target public servants with violence,” Garland said.

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