California man who threatened politicians, journalists sentenced to 3 years in prison
A California man who threatened members of Congress and journalists regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election has been sentenced to three years in prison, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Robert Lemke previously pleaded guilty to making threatening interstate communications, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.
Lemke, 36, was also sentenced to three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term, prosecutors said.
“Rather than attempting to effect change through the lawful forms of expression that all of us Americans still enjoy, Lemke sought to quell freedom of expression, to intimidate and instill fear in others by threats of violence,” U.S. Atty. Damian Williams said. “Today, [he] was rightly sentenced to prison for his conduct.”
According to court documents and statements made during public proceedings, he sent threatening electronic and audio messages to about 50 people from November 2020 through early January 2021, prosecutors said.
Lemke chose targets, prosecutors said, whose statements reflected the truth: that then-President Trump had lost the 2020 election.
According to authorities, he told people to “be ready for war” in a post to Facebook on Nov. 7, 2020, the day that most national media organizations called the race for Joe Biden.
“Trump has refused to cede,” he wrote. “Evidence shows fraud occurred and the Supreme Court cases will be successful. We blockchained and watermarked ballots in 16 states. Trump will prevail. Spread this message…. FAITH my fellow Republicans. Do not give up.”
As the Jan. 6 insurrection unfolded at the U.S. Capitol, Lemke sent a series of threatening text messages to journalists, members of Congress, other politicians and their families, prosecutors said.
A text message to a New York City-based relative of a journalist stated: “[The journalist’s] words are putting you and your family at risk. We are nearby, armed and ready. Thousands of us are active/retired law enforcement, military, etc. That’s how we do it.”
Around the same time, he also threatened the brother of a New York congressman, prosecutors said.
“Your brother is putting your entire family at risk with his lies and other words,” the message read. “We are armed and nearby your house. You had better have a word with him. We are not far from his either. Already spoke to [the congressman’s son] and know where his kids are.”
The text messages included a picture of a home in the same neighborhood as the home of the congressman’s brother, prosecutors said.
The messages also claimed that a group of active and retired law enforcement officers and military service members were near the congressman’s brother’s home and that the group had “armed members,” prosecutors said.
Lemke did not have any law enforcement or military affiliation, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said he used at least three phone numbers and various electronic accounts to try to hide his identity.
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