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Texan Accused of Death Threat in DOJ Unit’s Election Case (1)

Jan. 21, 2022, 7:02 PM

The Justice Department arrested a Texas man for allegedly threatening to kill government officials in the first criminal case brought by an elections threat task force created last summer.

Chad Stark, 54, arrested early Friday, is charged with sending interstate threats after he allegedly posted a message online calling for “patriots” to “put a bullet” in a government official, who wasn’t identified, and to “exterminate” other officials, according to an indictment unsealed on Friday.

The message was dated Jan. 5, 2021, according to the department. That was the day before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. The department said that the threats called for action by “Georgia patriots” and that the FBI’s Atlanta field office is investigating the case.

The arrest comes as Justice Department and FBI officials warn of increased threats and violence directed toward state and local government officials, from elected politicians to those serving on school boards.

Attorney General Merrick Garland pledged Friday that the Justice Department will take law enforcement actions to defend government officials from violence as the risks they face increase.

‘Bitter’ Experience

“There is no First Amendment right to unlawfully threaten to harm or kill someone,” Garland said in a speech to the United States Conference of Mayors. “Bitter historical experiences has made clear that the time to address threats is when they occur, not after a tragedy has struck.”

Garland also said the FBI is working to determine whether a gunman who took hostages at a synagogue in Texas on Jan. 15 acted alone.

The election threats task force has reviewed more than 850 reported threats against election workers across the country since June, said Kenneth Polite, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division. The unit currently has dozens of active investigations open into threats against election workers, Polite told reporters Friday.

U.S. officials have said the greatest domestic threat comes from individuals who are motivated to take violence by a mix of personal grievances and ideologies, including racial and anti-government hate.

Stark’s case appears to illustrate the concern. In his posting, which was made on the Craigslist website, Stark accused one of the government officials of being a Chinese agent. He also said local law enforcement officials have “stood down” from confronting the Black Lives Matter movement, and he indicated opposition to wearing face masks.

(Updates with number of election threats in eighth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Chris Strohm in Washington at cstrohm1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Bill Faries at wfaries@bloomberg.net

Larry Liebert

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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