Missouri man accused of threatening Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer
PHOENIX – A Missouri man is under indictment for allegedly leaving a threating voicemail on Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s personal cellphone, authorities said Wednesday.
Walter Lee Hoornstra, 50, of Tecumseh, was indicted Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on two counts: making an interstate threat, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison, and making a threatening interstate phone call, which carries a maximum sentence of two years.
“Greatly appreciate the FBI acting on this threat,” Richer told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday. “They, as well as some local law enforcement, have been fantastic. Unfortunately, we have plenty more to keep them busy for a while.”
Elections officials around the nation have faced a rising wave of harassment and intimidation tied to the 2020 presidential election that has carried over into the 2022 midterms. The efforts have especially targeted election workers in battleground states like Arizona where Donald Trump contested his loss to President Joe Biden.
According to Tuesday’s indictment, Hoornstra allegedly left the following message on Richer’s phone on May 19, 2021:
“So, I see you’re for fair and competent elections, that’s what it says here on your homepage for your recorder position you’re trying to fly here. But you call things unhinged and insane lies when there’s a forensic audit going on. You need to check yourself. You need to do your f—ing job right because other people from other states are watching your ass. You f—ing renege on this deal or give them any more troubles, your ass will never make it to your next little board meeting.”
The call was made while contractors, on behalf of state Senate Republican leadership, were conducting a review of the 2020 election in Maricopa County. Richer, a Republican, wasn’t in office during the election; he was a candidate, defeating incumbent Democrat Adrian Fontes.
Richer was in office at the time of the so-called audit and was outspoken in defending the integrity of the 2020 election. He also questioned the ability and motives of Cyber Ninjas, the now-defunct Florida firm that was hired to lead the review despite having no election experience.
🧵Thanks to @FBI for acting on this one. Very meaningful.
— Stephen Richer—Maricopa Cnty Recorder (prsnl acct) (@stephen_richer) August 17, 2022
During Monday’s canvass of the recent primary election in Maricopa County, Richer detailed the types of threats his office has been receiving. He also said the county attorney’s office is looking into the cases.
The FBI’s Phoenix office is investigating the federal threat case as part of the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force.
“The FBI is committed to vigorously investigating and holding accountable anyone who threatens election workers,” Luis Quesada, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said in a press release.
“These public servants protect our fundamental right to vote by administering fair and free elections. Any attempts to interfere with our elections by intimidating election officials, their staffs, and volunteers with threats of violence will not be tolerated.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.