The Justice Department announced on Thursday night the arrest of an Iowa man who prosecutors allege had sent death threats to an election official in Maricopa County, Arizona.
According to the indictment, 64-year-old Mark A. Rissi of Hiawatha, Iowa, allegedly sent two voicemails to Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman calling for him to be hanged.
“We’re going to hang you,” Rissi allegedly said in a voicemail sent to Hickman in late September 2021. He’d also allegedly called Hickman a “stupid lying Commie” and said that the election official was going to die.
In another voicemail allegedly sent in early December of that year, Rissi allegedly told Hickman: “Do your job” or “you will hang with those [expletive] in the end. We will see to it. Torches and pitchforks. That’s your future, [expletive].” He then accused Hickman of having evidence proving “conspirators” deleted data from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors computer system, prosecutors allege.
Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county, was the site of a highly publicized election audit in 2021 after the former president claimed the area was rife with voter fraud.
Hickman serves as chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Trump reached out to him twice after the election to persuade him to investigate the county further, but Hickman reportedly let the calls go to voicemail.
On Thursday, Hickman said in a statement that Rissi’s voicemails were “chilling”.
“This wasn’t a prank call. This wasn’t protected speech. This was a serious threat to me and my family,” he said.
A Republican and self-proclaimed Trump voter, Hickman has faced a wave of death threats since the election for refusing to fold under pressure from Trump and his allies to find more votes for the former president.
“I’ve received numerous threats over the past two years,” his Thursday statement said. “My colleagues on the Board have as well. The Recorder. And worst of all, county elections staff doing their job honorably are getting calls and emails threatening violence, calling them traitors. It’s despicable.”
Since Trump claimed that he actually won several key districts back in 2020, election officials and poll workers have become targets of death threats from his supporters, prompting state and federal responses to provide extra protections for the group.
Rissi’s case was overseen by the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force, a collaborative effort by several divisions within the department and FBI offices across the country to investigate the influx of threats against election officials and poll workers in recent years. The initiative was launched by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in June 2021.
“I’m grateful to the Department of Justice and the FBI for taking this case seriously and making an arrest,” Hickman said in his statement, “and I’m pleased the U.S. Attorney General has set up a task force to address increased threats of violence to election workers and elected officials.”
Rissi was indicted on two counts of making threatening interstate communications and one count of making a threatening phone call.