Advance Notice: Briefs

SDNY orders Wohl, Burkman to correct misinformation about voting in new robocall

By: - October 29, 2020 12:47 pm

Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl | DM photo via Flickr Public Domain

Right-wing operatives and conspiracy theorists Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, each facing a slew of felony charges for spreading misinformation and attempting to intimidate Michigan voters via robocalls, have been ordered by a federal court to correct those falsehoods with another robocall.

The two operatives allegedly orchestrated a robocall on Aug. 26 designed to intimidate voters, particularly those in areas with large minority populations, out of voting with mail-in ballots. Attorney General Dana Nessel filed charges against Burkman and Wohl on Oct. 1 for the attempt to suppress voter turnout.

The robocalls are believed to have gone out to nearly 12,000 Detroit-area homes and approximately 85,000 elsewhere across the country.

By order of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) on Wednesday, Burkman and Wohl are required to make new, “curative” robocalls to all who received the first one by 5 p.m. Thursday.

That new call must contain this message: “At the direction of a United States district court, this call is intended to inform you that a federal court has found that the message you previously received regarding mail-in voting from Project 1599, a political organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, contained false information that has had the effect of intimidating voters, and thus interfering with the upcoming presidential election, in violation of federal voting-rights laws.”

The federal lawsuit against the operatives, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation et al v. Wohl et al, was filed on Oct. 16 in the SDNY.

“Defendants intentionally reached into the homes of voters and raised the specter of arrest, financial distress, infirmity, and compulsory medical procedures,” Judge Victor Marrero wrote in his opinion Wednesday. “Not only did Defendants incite fears of these grim consequences, but they baselessly tied the prospects to mail-in voting. The result cannot be described as anything but deliberate interference with voters’ rights to cast their ballots in any legal manner they choose.”

In the August robocalls, voters are falsely told that participating in mail-in voting will put their personal information into a database that could be used by police, credit card companies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for “mandatory vaccines” — none of which is true.

In Michigan, Wohl and Burkman face four felony charges each:

  • Election law — intimidating voters (punishable up to five years)
  • Conspiracy to commit an election law violation (punishable up to five years)
  • Using a computer to commit the crime of election law — intimidating voters (punishable up to seven years)
  • Using a computer to commit the crime of conspiracy (punishable up to seven years)

That case brought by Nessel’s office is currently pending in the 36th District Court in Detroit.

Anyone who received the robocall on or about Aug. 26 and wishes to file a complaint about it is encouraged to contact Nessel’s office by calling 517-335-7650.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).