Man Pleads Guilty to Making Threats to Arizona State Election Official
For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
An Ohio man pleaded guilty today to sending threatening communications to an election official with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
“The Justice Department has no tolerance for illegal threats that target those who administer our elections, and it will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute such criminal conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “These threats endanger election workers and their families, and they endanger our democracy.”
According to court documents, on or about Aug. 2, 2022, on the date of Arizona’s primary elections, Joshua Russell, 44, of Bucyrus, left the following voicemail for an election official with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office (Victim‑1): “This message is for traitor [Victim-1’s full name]. You’ve drug your feet, you’ve done nothing, to protect our election for 2020. You’re committing election fraud, you’re starting to do it again, from day one. You’re the enemy of the United States, you’re a traitor to this country, and you better put your sh[inaudible], your [expletive] affairs in order, ’cause your days [inaudible] are extremely numbered. America’s coming for you, and you will pay with your life, you communist [expletive] traitor [expletive].”
“Election officials are the first responders of democracy,” said U.S. Attorney Gary M. Restaino for the District of Arizona. “We best vindicate the work of these public servants when we locate, investigate, and prosecute those who make threats against them.”
Additionally, on or about Sept. 9, 2022, Russell left the following voicemail for Victim-1: “This message is for terrorist [Victim-1’s last name]. The only reason you’re still walking around on this planet is because we’re waiting for the midterms to see you prosecuted for the crimes you have done to our nation. You are a terrorist. You are a derelict criminal. And you have a few short months to see yourself behind bars, or we will see you to the grave. You are a traitor to this nation, and you will suffer the [expletive] consequences.”
“This case is another successful result from the hard work of the Election Threats Task Force,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI and our partners will continue to investigate anyone who threatens election officials working to keep America’s elections fair and free.”
Finally, on or about Nov. 15, 2022, Russell left the following voicemail for Victim-1: “This message is for communist, criminal, [Victim-1’s full name]. We will not endure your crimes on America another day. You’ve been busted, over and over again. We will not wait for you to be drugged through court. A war is coming for you. The entire nation is coming for you. And we will stop, at no end, until you are in the ground. You’re a traitor to this nation. You’re a [expletive] piece of [expletive] communist, and you just signed your own death warrant. Get your affairs in order, cause, your days are very short.”
Russell pleaded guilty to one count of making a threatening interstate communication. The sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 13, and the defendant faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI Phoenix Field Office is investigating the case, with the assistance of the FBI Cleveland Field Office, Mansfield Resident Agency.
Trial Attorney Tanya Senanayake of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean K. Lokey for the District of Arizona are prosecuting the case.
This case is part of the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force. Announced by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and launched by Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco in June 2021, the task force has led the Department’s efforts to address threats of violence against election workers, and to ensure that all election workers – whether elected, appointed, or volunteer – are able to do their jobs free from threats and intimidation. The task force engages with the election community and state and local law enforcement to assess allegations and reports of threats against election workers, and has investigated and prosecuted these matters where appropriate, in partnership with FBI Field Offices and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country. Two years after its formation, the task force is continuing this work and supporting the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI Field Offices nationwide as they carry on the critical work that the task force has begun.
Under the leadership of Deputy Attorney General Monaco, the task force is led by the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and includes several other entities within the Department of Justice, including the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Criminal Division, the Civil Rights Division, the National Security Division, and the FBI, as well as key interagency partners, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. For more information regarding the Justice Department’s efforts to combat threats against election workers, read the Deputy Attorney General’s memo.
To report suspected threats or violent acts, contact your local FBI office and request to speak with the Election Crimes Coordinator. Contact information for every FBI field office may be found at www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/. You may also contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or file an online complaint at www.tips.fbi.gov. Complaints submitted will be reviewed by the task force and referred for investigation or response accordingly. If someone is in imminent danger or risk of harm, contact 911 or your local police immediately.
Updated September 1, 2023
Voting and Elections