The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced the guilty plea on Friday. Robert Lemke was charged in January for threatening both a family member of Mr Stephanopoulos and the brother of New York Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries. Lemke attacked his targets because they accurately stated that President Joe Biden won the election.
Former President Donald Trump has been spreading the baseless conspiracy theory that the election was rigged, causing many of his supporters to doubt the results despite that election security experts have confirmed that the democratic process was free, safe, and fair.
“We are nearby, armed and ready. Thousands of us are active/retired law enforcement, military, etc. That’s how we do it,” Lemke wrote.
“Rather than attempting to effect change through legal discourse or any of the other freedoms of expression that all Americans enjoy, he instead sent threatening messages to the family member of a journalist,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “Inevitably, elections result in frustrations for some – that is part of the political process – but trying to instil fear in others by threat will not be tolerated by law enforcement.”
Between November 2020 and January 2021, Lemke sent threatening texts and audio messages to around 50 targets, according to the Department of Justice. The targets included reporters and politicians who had said that Mr Trump lost the election.
“Your brother is putting your entire family at risk with his lies and other words,” Lemke texted Mr Jeffries’ brother, according to DOJ. “We are armed and nearby your house. You had better have a word with him. We are not far from his either. Already spoke to [the Congressman’s son] and know where his kids are.”
“Your words have consequences. Stop telling lies, Biden did not win, he will not be president. We are not white supremacists. Most of us are active/retired law enforcement or military. You are putting your family at risk. We have armed members near your home ... Don’t risk their safety with your words and lies,” he added.
The department said Lemke “used at least three different phone numbers and various electronic accounts to mask his identity when sending threats to his victims” and that he “was not in fact affiliated with law enforcement or the US military as he claimed in some of his threats”.
“Folks. Be ready for war. Trump has refused to cede,” the 36-year-old wrote on Facebook on 7 November 2020. “Evidence shows fraud occurred and the Supreme Court cases will be successful. We blockchained and watermarked ballots in 16 states. Trump will prevail. Spread this message ... FAITH my fellow Republicans. Do not give up.”
Lemke pleaded guilty to one count of making threatening interstate communications, a crime that has a maximum sentence of five years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled to take place on 14 December.
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