Threats to Arizona Election Officials Lead to Guilty Plea and Strong Warning

An Ohio man has pleaded guilty in federal court to making threatening voicemails to former Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs during her campaign for governor last year. The guilty plea comes as the third case this month of individuals making threats to election officials in Arizona since the 2020 election. In response to these developments, federal officials have issued a firm warning to potential offenders as the state prepares for another election cycle.

Federal prosecutor U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino emphasized the seriousness of threatening election officials and workers, stressing that any form of communication that threatens them can lead directly to imprisonment. Restaino also highlighted the extensive work of the FBI in locating and apprehending individuals involved in such threats.

Nationwide, a total of 14 cases have been prosecuted by a special Department of Justice task force, specifically targeting individuals who have made threats against election workers. Out of these cases, five involved election officials in Arizona, highlighting the state’s prominence in the landscape of election-related threats.

FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Myron Byrd further emphasized the importance of election security and the essential role of election officials and their staff in upholding democracy. Both Restaino and Byrd assured the public that law enforcement authorities are prepared to establish command posts and monitor threats during key election dates.

The rise in threats against election officials has been linked by some to the repeated claims made by former President Donald Trump and like-minded Republicans regarding the alleged theft of the 2020 election. Conspiracy theories about election workers continue to circulate, perpetuating a climate of hostility and danger.

In response to this concerning trend, Restaino called for a de-escalation of political rhetoric and stressed the need for civility. He also attributed the high number of threat cases in Arizona to the state’s high-profile politics and extensive media coverage surrounding election-related events.

The recent guilty plea of Joshua Russell, the Ohio man who left threatening voicemails for Hobbs, serves as a reminder of the seriousness of these offenses. Russell pleaded guilty to a felony count of making a threatening interstate communication and faces a maximum prison sentence of up to five years.


Q: Are threats against election officials a federal crime?

A: Yes, threats against election officials are considered federal crimes.

Q: How many cases have been prosecuted by the Department of Justice task force?

A: The task force has prosecuted a total of 14 cases.

Q: Why does Arizona have a high number of threat cases?

A: Arizona’s high-profile politics and extensive media coverage contribute to the state’s prominence in election-related threat cases.

Q: What is the maximum prison sentence for making threatening communications?

A: The maximum prison sentence for making threatening interstate communications is up to five years.