Judge Sets $100,000 Bail For Hoaxsters Facing Charges For Bogus Vote-By-Mail Robocalls

Lobbyist Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl during a press conference. (Tierney Sneed/TPM)
|
October 8, 2020 12:23 p.m.

A duo of far-right fringe hoaxsters each face a $100,000 bond related to voter intimidation charges brought by the Michigan Attorney General. Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl — who have been caught up in comically bogus plots to go after President Trump’s foes in the past — were accused last week of being behind robocalls that made false and racially-charged claims about mail-in voting.

They turned themselves in Thursday morning, and at a bail hearing a lawyer from Attorney General’s Dana Nessel’s office said that her investigation had turned up both records and witness testimony connecting Burkman and Wohl to the robocalls.

An attorney for Burkman, meanwhile, accused Nessel, without irony, of engaging in a “political stunt” by bringing the charges.

The AG’s office asked a magistrate judge to impose $1 million bond, which they said was needed to deter Wohl and Burkman from continuing to engage in schemes aimed at illegally interfering in the election.

“It’s the protection of the public that we are most concerned about — the protection and the integrity of the election process, and using unfair tactics to try to affect the outcome of the election,” Bill Cunningham, an assistant attorney general, told the court.

Cunningham said that Wohl and Burkman, when showing up to turn themselves in, brandished $100 bills and had a film crew in tow.

“These are gentlemen that make a mockery of our system of justice,” Cunningham said.

In addition to the $100,000 bond, the judge also imposed as a condition of their release a ban on them engaging in robocalls between now and Nov. 4, the day after the election.

Nessel’s office announced her investigation into the robocalls in August. The calls told recipients that voting by mail would put them in databases for debt collection, arrest warrants and mandatory vaccines. The calls went out to more than 11,000 people in the Detroit area, Nessell’s office said, and attorneys general in several other states told Nessel that similar calls had been reported their jurisdictions, as well.

At the bond hearing, Burkman’s lawyer, Scott Grabel, played down the threat to voters the robocalls imposed.

“This is not involving threats in front of a voting booth or anything like that,” Grabel said. “This was not about deterring voting. The message was about concerns about mail in voting only.”

He said that Nessel’s request for a cash bond was a “publicity stunt” that was “insulting” to the judge’s intelligence.

“Is your attorney general going to go on Rachel Maddow again for her political point?” Grabel shot at Cunnigham.

In broad strokes, Cunningham walked the judge through the evidence he said his office had obtained linking Wohl and Burkman to the scheme.

Search warrants linked the calls to Burkman’s phone number, and produced records showing Wohl’s involvement, Cunningham said.

Cunnigham said that through records from a third party robocall delivery company and from live witness testimony, his office had learned that Burkman put out the message.

“We learned also that Mr. Wohl participated in this through his email, uploading the message…so it could go out,” Cunningham said.

Wohl and Burkman will proceed through next stage of the case separately, with each scheduled for a Oct. 15 probable cause conference in front of different judges.

Latest News
Comments
advertisement
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer:
SPECIAL DEAL FOR PAST TPM MEMBERS
40% OFF AN ANNUAL PRIME MEMBERSHIP
REJOIN FOR JUST $30