CLEVELAND (AP/KDKA) — Two conservative operatives pleaded not guilty on Friday in Cleveland to charges of bribery and voter intimidation for organizing tens of thousands of hoax robocalls falsely warning people that information gleaned from their mail-in ballots could lead to their arrest or forced vaccination.
Jacob Wohl, 22, of Irvine, California, and Jack Burkman, 54, of Arlington, Virginia, remain free after posting bond. Burkman is a Swissvale native.
Authorities say the men used a voice broadcast service to make roughly 85,000 robocalls to voters in predominantly black communities in Ohio, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois. They were charged in Detroit on Oct. 1 with conspiring to intimidate voters and using a computer to commit crimes.
The calls warned people that information from their mailed ballots could be used by law enforcement agencies to enforce arrest warrants, to collect outstanding debts, and to be tracked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mandatory vaccines.
Wohl and Burkman have a history of staging hoaxes and spreading false smears against Democrats and public officials.
The Associated Press reported in May 2019 that a 21-year-old college student from Michigan said the men recruited him to falsely claim he was raped by Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, then published the smear without his permission.
Wohl denied the student’s accusation, saying the student had reached out to him. Burkman said on Twitter he believed the student’s initial account of the assault was “accurate and true.”
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