Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman’s robocalls violated KKK law: judges
Right-wing activists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman’s automated calls targeting black voters violated the Voting Rights Act and the Ku Klux Klan statute — and the issue isn’t close enough to require a jury, a federal judge ruled.
“The court recognizes that the free exchange of ideas on issues of public concern and the ability to participate in robust political discussion are the foundations of a democratic society,” senior US District Judge Victor Marrero wrote in a 111- lateral arrangement.
Marrero nonetheless noted that the evidence “demonstrates that the neighborhoods targeted by the defendants were not fortuitous or coincidental,” noting that a reasonable jury could not escape the conclusion that the couple “restricted the right to vote specifically to black people.” wanted to deny voters”.
“Dusks and Political Professionals”
The ruling marks a no-trial victory for The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), a civil rights group that sued Wohl and Burkman ahead of the 2020 presidential election in New York’s South District.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who joined the lawsuit, said in a statement Wednesday:
“Your vote is your vote and I am proud that the court ruled in our favor today to uphold the most important cornerstone of our democracy. Wohl and Burkman engaged in a nefarious campaign to intimidate black voters, using threats and lies to prevent them from making their voices heard in order to secure the election for their preferred presidential candidate. I will always be a strong advocate for New Yorkers’ right to vote, and anyone who tries to take that right away will face the full force of the law.”
Wohl and Burkman have been linked to several political hoaxes targeting perceived rivals of former President Donald Trump, including then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Anthony Fauci and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Prosecutors, regulators and ordinary citizens claimed the duo crossed a line with 85,000 robocalls sent nationwide to places like New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
The automated calls, recorded by a woman posing as “Tamika Taylor,” were largely targeted at various regions with the false message that “if you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that used by police departments to track down old warrants and [will] used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debt.”
Although Wohl and Burkman portrayed themselves as “dumbs and political peddlers with an irreverent sense of humor,” Judge Marrero denied that the automated calls were “just an exaggeration.”
“In addition to the specific damages that the call threatened, the defendants clothed the call with a veil of legitimacy to trick its listeners into believing that the statements made in the call were true,” Marrero added. “The Robocall framed Wohl and Burkman’s organization, Project 1599, as a ‘civil rights organization’ with a name reminiscent of Project 1619, a New York Times initiative that sought to recognize and commemorate the history of the first slave ship , which were transported enslaved Africans to the United States.”
The stunt also resulted in a criminal prosecution. In the Ohio case, Wohl and Burkman were sentenced to spend 500 hours registering voters living in low-income neighborhoods in the Washington, DC area. That was after they pleaded guilty to a felony charge of telecoms fraud. Another case in Michigan is still pending.
“Angry Black Callbacks”
Even the “black activist” persona, the judge noted, has been misinterpreted by some news organizations as a reference to Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer.
“The call clearly lacked any fancy details or other clues that might indicate to a casual listener that it shouldn’t be taken seriously,” Marrero noted.
In October 2020, Marrero compared the robocalls to Ku Klux Klan tactics in a court order denouncing Wohl and Burkman’s “election terror.”
“In the current version of events, the means [Burkman and Wohl] used to intimidate voters, although born of fear and similarly driven by hate, are not weapons, torches, burning crosses and other horrific methods committed under the guise of white hoods,” the judge ruled at the time. “Rather, [Burkman and Wohl] Carry out electoral terror using telephones, computers and modern technology designed to serve the same pernicious purposes.”
But that request was simply for a temporary restraining order that prevented the couple from making any more automated calls – forcing them to send “healing messages” to notify recipients of the ruling.
Since that time, Marrero said, emails showed they planned to send the robocalls to “black neighborhoods.”
“The robocall script itself also contained racially coded language and was imbued with numerous harmful racial stereotypes about the black community to appeal to black voters,” Wednesday’s decision said. “Additionally, each of the threatening messages contained in the robocall also drew on harmful stereotypes about black people, relating to interactions with the criminal justice system, debt accumulation, and drug resistance.”
If there were any doubts about the intentions, Marrero said, all were eliminated by Burkman’s message to Wohl “expressing his satisfaction that he was receiving ‘angry black callbacks.'”
NCBCP, Attorney General James and the Robocall recipients have 20 days to submit their claims for damages, attorneys’ fees and costs. The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither does Wohl’s lawyer.
Read the verdict here.
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https://lawandcrime.com/2020-election/right-wing-hoaxers-robocalls-targeting-black-voters-violated-voting-rights-act-and-kkk-act-federal-judge-rules/ Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman’s robocalls violated KKK law: judges