Two men pleaded guilty to threatening elections officials in separate criminal cases, the Justice Department announced Thursday – the latest in a department effort to crack down on election threats nationwide.
Chad Christopher Stark of Texas pleaded guilty to making threats against public officials in Georgia following the 2020 election, while Joshua Russell of Ohio pleaded guilty to threatening an Arizona election worker during the 2022 midterm election season, the department said in separate news releases.
The cases are part of the DOJ’s Election Threats Task Force, which was launched in June 2021 to address the rise in threats against election officials across the country. The task force has charged 14 threat-related cases and secured nine convictions, according to the department.
Stark, 55, faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of sending a threat using a telecommunications device, according to the Justice Department.
Prosecutors said he posted a threatening message on Craigslist toward an unnamed election official on or around January 5, 2021, a day before supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress’ certification of the 2020 election.
The message, according to court documents, said in part: “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.”
“It’s our duty as American Patriots to put an end to the lives of these traitors and take back our country by force we can no longer wait on the corrupt law enforcement in the corrupt courts. If we want our country back we have to exterminate these people,” he wrote, according to an indictment.
A sentencing date has not yet been set for Stark, who had been indicted in January 2022.
Russell, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to one count of making a threatening interstate communication and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The 44-year-old is set to be sentenced on November 13.
According to court documents, Russell repeatedly called an Arizona election official a “traitor,” and claimed the employee didn’t stop election fraud in 2020 when baseless claims of fraud were widespread, adding that he believed the official wasn’t doing enough to protect elections.
Prosecutors said in court documents that in an August 2, 2022, voicemail Russell told the election worker, “You’re the enemy of the United States, you’re a traitor to this country,” as well as said the worker’s days were “extremely numbered.”
CNN has reached out to Russell’s and Stark’s attorneys for comment.
In a statement Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed to push forward on election threat cases.
“A functioning democracy requires that the public servants who administer our elections are able to do their jobs without fearing for their lives,” Garland said.
“The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute those who target election officials and election workers as part of our broader efforts to safeguard the right to vote and to defend our democracy.”