Douglass Mackey, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly to 7 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to interfere with potential voters’ right to vote in the 2016 election for the Office of the President of the United States. Douglass Mackey, also known as “Ricky Vaughn,” was previously convicted of the charge of Conspiracy Against Rights at trial by a federal jury in Brooklyn. Mackey was convicted of the charge in March 2023 following a three-week trial.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the sentence.
“One of the foundational rights we hold as Americans, a right that many fought so hard to obtain, is the right to vote. The defendant weaponized disinformation in a dangerous scheme to stop targeted groups, including black and brown people and women, from participating in our democracy,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “This groundbreaking prosecution demonstrates our commitment to prosecuting those who commit crimes that threaten our democracy and seek to deprive people of their constitutional right to vote.”
As proven at trial, by 2016, Mackey had established an audience on Twitter with approximately 58,000 followers. A February 2016 analysis by the MIT Media Lab ranked Mackey as one of the most significant influencers of the then-upcoming presidential election. Between September 2016 and November 2016, Mackey conspired with other influential Twitter users and with members of private online groups to use social media platforms, including Twitter, to disseminate fraudulent messages that encouraged supporters of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to “vote” via text message or social media which was legally invalid.
For example, on November 1, 2016, in or around the same time that Mackey was sending tweets suggesting the importance of limiting “black turnout,” the defendant tweeted an image depicting an African American woman standing in front of an “African Americans for Hillary” sign. The ad stated: “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home,” “Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925,” and “Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.” The fine print at the bottom of the deceptive image stated: “Must be 18 or older to vote. One vote per person. Must be a legal citizen of the United States. Voting by text not available in Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska or Hawaii. Paid for by Hillary For President 2016.” The tweet included the typed hashtag “#ImWithHer,” a slogan frequently used by Hillary Clinton. On or about and before Election Day 2016, thousands of unique telephone numbers texted “Hillary” or some derivative to the 59925 text number, which had been used in multiple deceptive campaign images tweeted by Mackey and his co-conspirators.
Several hours after tweeting the first image, Mackey tweeted an image depicting a woman seated at a conference room typing a message on her cell phone. This deceptive image was written in Spanish and mimicked a font used by the Clinton campaign in authentic ads. The image also included a copy of the Clinton campaign’s logo and the “ImWithHer” hashtag.
This case was investigated by the FBI.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Erik D. Paulsen and F. Turner Buford of the Eastern District of New York’s Public Integrity Section and Trial Attorney William J. Gullotta of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section.
West Palm Beach, Florida
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-80 (AMD)