Burkman, Wohl Ordered to Correct Misinformation from Earlier Robocalls with New Robocall

Contact: Ryan Jarvi 517-599-2746
Agency: Attorney General

October 28, 2020

LANSING – The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has ordered Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl to make “curative” robocalls to anyone who received an earlier robocall the two allegedly orchestrated to intimidate voters from participating in the election through mail-in ballots. 

The Court ruled this morning in National Coalition on Black Civic Participation et al v. Wohl et al (1:20-cv-08668-VM) ordering the two political operatives to arrange for a new robocall to be made to all recipients of an Aug. 26 voter intimidation robocall to correct the misinformation it contained. 

The new robocall, to be made by 5 p.m. ET Thursday, Oct. 29 must contain this message: 

“At the direction of a United States district court, this call is intended to inform you that a federal court has found that the message you previously received regarding mail-in voting from Project 1599, a political organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, contained false information that has had the effect of intimidating voters, and thus interfering with the upcoming presidential election, in violation of federal voting-rights laws." 

"We applaud the court’s order that these defendants be made to issue a new robocall to correct the misinformation they disseminated,” Nessel said. “Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy and all voters should be able to cast their ballot without confusion or fear.” 

In his opinion, the Hon. Victor Marrero, US District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York, wrote:  “Defendants intentionally reached into the homes of voters and raised the specter of arrest, financial distress, infirmity, and compulsory medical procedures.  Not only did Defendants incite fears of these grim consequences, but they baselessly tied the prospects to mail-in voting.  The result cannot be described as anything but deliberate interference with voters’ rights to cast their ballots in any legal manner they choose.”   

Burkman, a 54-year-old Arlington, Virginia resident, and Wohl, a 22-year-old who also recently moved to Arlington, were arraigned on multiple felonies after they allegedly used a robocall targeted at urban areas with significant minority populations in an effort to intimidate voters. That case, filed by the Michigan Department of Attorney General, is pending in the 36th District Court in Detroit before Magistrate Joseph Boyer. Each defendant is charged with:   

  • Election law – intimidating voters,  a felony punishable up to five years;
  • Conspiracy to commit an election law violation, a felony punishable up to five years;
  • Using a computer to commit the crime of election law – intimidating voters, a felony punishable up to seven years; and
  • Using a computer to commit the crime of conspiracy, a  felony punishable up to seven years. 
Charges were filed Oct. 1 in Michigan after the Attorney General’s office conducted an investigation into allegations that the two political operatives orchestrated a series of robocalls aimed at suppressing the vote in the November general election.  The preliminary exam will be conducted by the 36th District Court at 1 p.m. ET Thursday. 

The Attorney General’s office alleges that Burkman and Wohl attempted to deter voters from participating in the upcoming general election by disseminating a robocall targeted at certain areas, including Detroit and other major U.S. cities with significant minority populations. The robocalls were made in late August and went out to nearly 12,000 residents in the Detroit area. It is believed that approximately 85,000 robocalls were made nationally. 

The caller, who claims to be associated with an organization founded by the Burkman and Wohl, falsely tells people that mail-in voting, in particular, will allow personal information to become part of a special database used by police to track down old warrants and by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts. The caller also deceptively claims the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will use the information to track people for mandatory vaccines. However, none of the claims made in the robocall are true. 

Anyone who received this call on or about Aug. 26 and wishes to file a complaint about it is encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s office by calling 517-335-7650.   

Information callers may be asked to provide in their complaint will include:    

  • Complainant’s name, address and contact information;
  • Date and time of when the robocall was received;
  • Phone number of the line where the call was received;
  • Number displayed on caller ID when the call was received;
  • Whether the robocall went to voicemail or was answered live;
  • The complainant’s recollection of the robocall content and their thoughts about the call;
  • Whether the complainant is and has been a Michigan resident for six months or more; and
  • Whether the complainant is a registered voter or is eligible to vote. 

There is very little, if any, evidence to substantiate claims that mail-in ballots lead to fraud, as many states have successfully conducted the process for years. Michigan has had absentee voting for more than 60 years. In November 2018, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved Proposal 3, which amended Michigan’s Constitution and gave all Michigan voters the constitutional right to vote by absentee ballot without excuse. 

Click here to view a copy of the opinion from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

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Please note: A criminal charge is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The Attorney General’s office does not provide photos of defendants, but one may be available from the booking agency, the Detroit Detention Center.