An Iowa man was sentenced yesterday to two and a half years in prison for sending threatening communications to an election official on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and to the then-Attorney General of Arizona.
“This sentence makes clear that individuals who illegally threaten election officials and others associated with the electoral process will face meaningful penalties,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Justice Department will diligently investigate and prosecute attempts to illegally threaten, intimidate, and coerce the individuals administering the nation’s free and fair elections.”
According to court documents, on or about Sept. 27, 2021, Mark A. Rissi, 64, of Hiawatha, said the following in a voicemail message he left for Clint Hickman, an election official with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors: “Hello Mr. Hickman, I am glad that you are standing up for democracy and want to place your hand on the Bible and say that the election was honest and fair. I really appreciate that. When we come to lynch your stupid lying Commie [expletive], you’ll remember that you lied on the [expletive] Bible, you piece of [expletive]. You’re gonna die, you piece of [expletive]. We’re going to hang you. We’re going to hang you.”
“Those who weaponize election protests threaten our civility and our democracy,” said U.S. Attorney Gary M. Restaino for the District of Arizona. “Thanks to our partners with the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force and the FBI for ensuring accountability.”
Additionally, on or about Dec. 8, 2021, Rissi said the following in a voicemail message he left for then-Attorney General of Arizona Mark Brnovich: “This message is for Attorney General Mark Brnovich . . . . I’m a victim of a crime. My family is a victim of a crime. My extended family is a victim of a crime. That crime was the theft of the 2020 election. The election that was fraudulent across the state of Arizona, that the Attorney General knows was fraudulent, that the Attorney General has images of the conspirators deleting election fraud data from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors computer system. Do your job, Brnovich, or you will hang with those [expletive] in the end. We will see to it. Torches and pitchforks. That’s your future, [expletive]. Do your job.”
Rissi pleaded guilty to two counts of sending a threatening interstate communication.
“The FBI works to ensure that threats to election officials will not impact election results, but will result in legal consequences,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Today’s sentencing represents the FBI and our partners’ dedication to keeping American elections impenetrable from criminal influences.”
The FBI Phoenix Field Office investigated the case, with assistance from the FBI Omaha Field Office, Cedar Rapids Resident Agency.
Trial Attorney Tanya Senanayake of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean K. Lokey for the District of Arizona prosecuted the case.
This case is part of the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force. Announced by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and launched by Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco in June 2021, the task force has led the Department’s efforts to address threats of violence against election workers, and to ensure that all election workers – whether elected, appointed, or volunteer – are able to do their jobs free from threats and intimidation. The task force engages with the election community and state and local law enforcement to assess allegations and reports of threats against election workers, and has investigated and prosecuted these matters where appropriate, in partnership with FBI Field Offices and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country. The task force is continuing this work and supporting the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI Field Offices nationwide.
Under the leadership of Deputy Attorney General Monaco, the task force is led by the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and includes several other entities within the Justice Department, including the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Criminal Division, the Civil Rights Division, the National Security Division, and the FBI, as well as key interagency partners, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. For more information regarding the Justice Department’s efforts to combat threats against election workers, read the Deputy Attorney General’s memo.
To report suspected threats or violent acts, contact your local FBI office and request to speak with the Election Crimes Coordinator. Contact information for every FBI field office may be found at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/. You may also contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or file an online complaint at www.tips.fbi.gov. Complaints submitted will be reviewed by the task force and referred for investigation or response accordingly. If someone is in imminent danger or risk of harm, contact 911 or your local police immediately.