California Man Pleads Guilty To Making Threats Directed Against A Journalist Relating To The Outcome Of The 2020 Presidential Election
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ROBERT LEMKE pled guilty to making threatening interstate communications to a New York City-based family member of a journalist (the “Journalist”), citing the Journalist’s statements about the outcome of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. LEMKE pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated: “Robert Lemke was frustrated with the result of the 2020 Presidential Election. Rather than attempting to effect change through legal discourse or any of the other freedoms of expression that all Americans enjoy, he instead sent threatening messages to the family member of a journalist. Inevitably, elections result in frustrations for some – that is part of the political process – but trying to instill fear in others by threat will not be tolerated by law enforcement.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint, Superseding Indictment, and other documents in the public record, as well as statements made in public court proceedings:
From November 2020 through early January 2021, the defendant sent threatening electronic and audio messages to approximately 50 victims, including journalists and politicians, targeting those individuals as a result of their statements expressing that then-President Trump had lost the 2020 presidential election. On January 6, 2021, the same day that individuals purporting to protest the 2020 presidential election gathered in Washington, D.C. and stormed the Capitol Building, LEMKE sent a series of these threatening text messages to journalists, members of Congress, other politicians, and their families.
As the attack on the Capitol Building was ongoing, LEMKE sent threatening text messages to a relative of the Journalist, stating: “[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.”
At approximately the same time that LEMKE was sending threats directed at the Journalist, LEMKE also sent threats to the brother of a New York City-based U.S. Congressman (the “Congressman”), citing the Congressman’s statements about the result of the 2020 presidential election. LEMKE’s text messages, which included a picture of a home in the same neighborhood as the home of the Congressman’s brother, stated:
Your brother is putting your entire family at risk with his lies and other words. 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.
. . . your words have consequences. Stop telling lies; Biden did not win, he will not be president. We are not white supremacists. Most of us are active/retired law enforcement or military. You are putting your family at risk. We have armed members near your home . . . . . Don’t risk their safety with your words and lies.
LEMKE acquired and used at least three different phone numbers and various electronic accounts to mask his identity when sending threats to his victims. LEMKE was not in fact affiliated with law enforcement or the U.S. military as he claimed in some of his threats. On or about November 7, 2020, LEMKE posted to Facebook: “Folks. Be ready for war. Trump has refused to cede. 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.”
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ROBERT LEMKE, 36, of Bay Point, California, pled guilty to one count of making threatening interstate communications, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. LEMKE is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Hellerstein on December 14, 2021.
The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of investigators and analysts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), the New York City Police Department, and over 50 other federal, state, and local agencies. Mr. Williams also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California and the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office for their assistance.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Kimberly J. Ravener and Kyle A. Wirshba are in charge of the prosecution.