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Press Release

Man Sentenced for Sending Death Threats to Arizona State Election Official

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

An Ohio man was sentenced today to two and a half years in prison for sending death threats to an election official in the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office during Arizona’s primary and general elections. 

“If you threaten violence against the public servants who administer our elections, there will be consequences,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The right to vote, which is the cornerstone of our democracy, relies on the ability of election workers and election officials to perform their duties without fearing for their lives. The Justice Department will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who threaten these public servants.”

According to court documents, between Aug. 2, 2022, and Nov. 15, 2022, Joshua Russell, 46, of Bucyrus, left a series of voicemails threatening the life of an election official with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office (Victim‑1).

The first message, which was sent on the day of the Arizona primary elections, accused Victim-1 of failing to protect the 2020 election and committing election fraud. Russell then said, “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].”

“The defendant made multiple death threats against an Arizona election official during the state’s elections. This conduct is an attack on the democratic process itself, and today’s sentence shows that perpetrators of such egregious, unlawful conduct will be held to account,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Criminal Division will not tolerate threats of violence intended to undermine our free and fair elections.”

Russell left another voicemail for Victim-1 on Sept. 9, 2022. In that message, Russell called Victim-1 a terrorist and a criminal, and then said that “[y]ou 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.”

“Thorough reporting leads to prompt charging and timely deterrence of those who would disrupt democracy,” said U.S. Attorney Gary M. Restaino for the District of Arizona. “Here, a threat reported during the August 2022 primary election was charged before the end of the calendar year. Thanks to the Office of the Arizona Secretary of State for making a detailed initial report, and to the FBI for its efficient and detailed investigation.”

Finally, on Nov. 15, 2022, Russell left a voicemail accusing Victim-1 of committing crimes against America and once again threatened Victim-1’s life. In relevant part, Russell said, “[w]e 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 in August 2023 to one count of making a threatening interstate communication.

The FBI Phoenix Field Office investigated the case, with assistance from the FBI Boston Field Office.

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 prosecuted the case.

This case is part of the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force. Announced by Attorney General Garland and launched by Deputy Attorney General Lisa 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 Justice Department, including the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Civil Rights Division, National Security Division, and FBI, as well as key interagency partners, such as the Department of Homeland Security and 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 You may also contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or file an online complaint at 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 March 25, 2024

Voting and Elections
Press Release Number: 24-345