The United States Department of Justice has charged a Texas man with posting an online threat against election officials in Georgia, a US state that former President Donald Trump has claimed without evidence cost him the presidency in 2020.
Chad Stark, 54, was arrested by the FBI and was due to appear in federal court in Austin, Texas, on a criminal charge of threatening three Georgia election officials, the department announced on Friday.
It accused Stark of posting a violent message on Craigslist on January 5, 2021, the day before a mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building as Congress was meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory.
Stark’s message was titled, “Georgia Patriots it’s time kill [Official A] the Chinese agent – $10,000”, according to the Department of Justice, which withheld the names of three state officials who were targeted.
“It’s our duty as American Patriots to put an end to the lives of these traitors and take back our country by force,” Stark wrote in the post on the classified advertisement website, the Department of Justice said. “We can no longer wait on the corrupt law enforcement in the corrupt courts.”
In the year since the Capitol riot, more than 725 people, including leaders of right-wing groups, have been arrested and charged for crimes related to the incident. US Attorney General Merrick Garland recently promisedto get justice and accountability for what happened.
Stark’s is the first criminal case brought by a special Department of Justice task force set up by Garland in June to address rising threats against state and local election workers across the country.
“The Justice Department has a responsibility not only to protect the right to vote, but also to protect those who administer our voting systems from violence and illegal threats of violence,” Garland said in a statement on Friday.
FBI Director Christopher Wray added, “Today’s arrest confirms the FBI’s commitment in our pursuit of justice against those who choose to threaten violence against anyone participating in our elections.”
Stark’s message also called for “one good loyal Patriot deer hunter in camp and rifle” to “send a message to these corrupt governors” and “spill blood”, according to the Department of Justice.
He was charged with one count of communicating interstate threats and faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
After losing the November 2020 presidential elections, Trump falsely claimed the vote was marred by widespread fraud and had been “stolen” from him. Some Trump supporters threatened election officials and workers in Georgia and elsewhere.
After losing in Georgia, Trump called the state’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger an “enemy of the people”. Trump had called Raffensperger on January 2, 2021, and told him to “find” enough votes to switch the outcome.
Raffensperger released a statement on Friday condemning threats against election workers and urging support for them “now more than ever”.
A spokesman would not comment specifically on whether anyone in Raffensperger’s office was a target of Stark’s threats.