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Political Robocallers Arraigned on Felony Voter Intimidation Charges
October 08, 2020
LANSING – Two political operatives were arraigned today in court on multiple felony charges after they allegedly used a robocall targeted at urban areas with significant minority populations in an effort to intimidate voters from participating in the November general election.
Jack Burkman, a 54-year-old Arlington, Virginia resident, and Jacob Wohl, a 22-year-old Los Angeles resident, were arraigned today in the 36th District Court in Detroit before Magistrate Joseph Boyer. They are each charged with:
- Election law – intimidating voters, a five-year felony;
- Conspiracy to commit an election law violation, a five-year felony;
- Using a computer to commit the crime of election law – intimidating voters, a seven-year felony; and
- Using a computer to commit the crime of conspiracy, a seven-year felony.
Burkman’s probable cause conference is scheduled for Oct. 15 and his preliminary exam is scheduled for Oct. 21 in front of Judge Roberta Archer. Wohl’s probable cause conference is scheduled for Oct. 15 and his preliminary exam is scheduled for Oct. 20 in front of Judge Kenneth King. Bail was set at $100,000 cash or surety for each defendant.
If convicted of the charges, the maximum amount of prison time each defendant could receive under law is 12 years, due to Michigan’s concurrent sentencing statutes. However, the actual length of incarceration, if any, will depend on sentencing guidelines and the judge’s determination.
Burkman and Wohl turned themselves into law enforcement at the Detroit Detention Center early this morning.
Charges were filed Oct. 1 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 Attorney General’s office alleges that Burkman and Wohl attempted to deter electors from participating in the November election by creating and funding a robocall targeted at certain area codes, including Detroit and other major U.S. cities with significant minority populations. The calls were made in late August and went out to nearly 12,000 residents with phone numbers from the 313 area code. It’s believed around 85,000 robocalls were made nationally, though an exact breakdown of the numbers of calls made to each city or state is not available.
Nessel’s office is aware of at least four other states whose residents reported receiving the robocall – New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois.
The recorded robocall message warns people about being “finessed into giving your private information to the man” and urges them to “beware of vote by mail.”
The caller, who claims to be associated with an organization founded by 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 that is true.
The Attorney General encourages anyone who received this call on or about Aug. 26 and who wishes to file a complaint about it to contact her 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.
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.