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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Ohio Man Sentenced to Prison for Threatening Former Arizona Secretary of State

Joshua Russell, a 46-year-old man from Ohio, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for threatening Katie Hobbs, the former secretary of state in Arizona, during her gubernatorial campaign in 2022. The sentencing was announced by prosecutors on Monday following Russell’s guilty plea to one count of making an interstate threat in U.S. District Court in Arizona last August.

According to the Justice Department, Russell was indicted in December 2022 for leaving multiple voicemail messages containing death threats at the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office during the 2022 midterm election season, in which Hobbs was running for governor. Although court documents did not mention Hobbs by name, a letter filed on Russell’s behalf last week was addressed to her.

In the letter, Russell expressed remorse and apologized to Hobbs, attributing his actions to struggles with anger, drug abuse, and alcohol addiction. He cited the influence of social media and news reports, which exacerbated his mental health issues.

The governor’s office and Russell’s public defenders did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Russell’s sentencing is part of the Justice Department’s broader initiative to prosecute individuals who threaten and intimidate election officials in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. Following baseless claims of electoral fraud propagated by former President Donald J. Trump, election officials faced a surge in threats and harassment.

Hobbs, a Democrat, has previously disclosed receiving thousands of threats for certifying Arizona’s voting results in the 2020 election. In a similar case, another individual pleaded guilty last year to threatening Hobbs with a bomb in 2021 and was subsequently sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Russell targeted Hobbs during the 2022 midterm election season, which culminated in her victory over Republican opponent Kari Lake in the gubernatorial race. In one of his voicemails, Russell branded Hobbs a communist and accused her of perpetrating fraud by certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.

In a menacing tirade, Russell threatened Hobbs, labeling her an enemy of the United States and vowing retribution. He left another message threatening to kill her if the midterm election results did not lead to her prosecution. Following the announcement of Hobbs’s victory in the governor’s race, Russell left a final message stating that she had signed her own “death warrant.”

Investigators traced the threatening messages to a phone in Bucyrus, Ohio, registered to Russell. Further scrutiny revealed that a phone number associated with Russell listed “[email protected]” as a recovery email address, according to a statement of probable cause filed by FBI agent Nathaniel D. Gena.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland reiterated the Justice Department’s commitment to pursuing similar cases, emphasizing that threats of violence against election officials will be met with consequences.

Russell’s sentencing underscores the severity of threatening behavior targeting public servants responsible for administering elections. As authorities continue to address such threats, the case serves as a reminder of the importance of safeguarding the integrity and security of electoral processes.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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