Ohio man pleads guilty to threatening Arizona election official in 2022
Sep 1, 2023, 9:15 AM
PHOENIX — An Ohio man pleaded guilty Thursday to sending threatening communications to an election official with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
Joshua Russell, 44, of Bucyrus, Ohio, left three threatening voicemails to an unidentified election official with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office between August and November.
According to court documents, on or about Aug. 2, 2022, the date of Arizona’s primary elections, he left the first threatening voicemail.
“This message is for traitor (victim). You’ve drug your feet, you’ve done nothing, to protect our election for 2020. You’re committing election fraud, you’re starting to do it again, from day one. You’re the enemy of the United States, you’re a traitor to this country, and you better put your sh[inaudible], your [expletive] affairs in order, ’cause your days [inaudible] are extremely numbered. America’s coming for you, and you will pay with your life, you communist [expletive] traitor [expletive],” the voicemail reportedly stated.
On or about Sept. 9, 2022, Russell left another voicemail for the victim.
“This message is for terrorist (victim). The only reason you’re still walking around on this planet is because we’re waiting for the midterms to see you prosecuted for the crimes you have done to our nation. You are a terrorist. You are a derelict criminal. And you have a few short months to see yourself behind bars, or we will see you to the grave. You are a traitor to this nation, and you will suffer the [expletive] consequences,” according to the voicemail.
Finally, on or about Nov. 15, 2022, Russell left another threatening voicemail.
“This message is for communist, criminal, (victim). We will not endure your crimes on America another day. You’ve been busted, over and over again. We will not wait for you to be drugged through court. A war is coming for you. The entire nation is coming for you. And we will stop, at no end, until you are in the ground. You’re a traitor to this nation. You’re a [expletive] piece of [expletive] communist, and you just signed your own death warrant. Get your affairs in order, cause, your days are very short,” the voicemail reportedly stated.
Next steps for Russell
Russell pleaded guilty to one count of making a threatening interstate communication. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 13, and the defendant faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
“Election officials are the first responders of democracy,” said Gary M. Restaino, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona. “We best vindicate the work of these public servants when we locate, investigate, and prosecute those who make threats against them.”
The FBI Phoenix Field Office is investigating the case, with the assistance of the FBI Cleveland Field Office, Mansfield Resident Agency.
Trial Attorney Tanya Senanayake of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean K. Lokey for the District of Arizona are prosecuting the case.
Threats task force
This case is part of the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force, which was announced by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and launched by Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco in June 2021.
The task force has led the Justice Department’s efforts to address threats of violence against election workers, and to ensure that all election workers – whether elected, appointed, or volunteer – are able to do their jobs free from threats and intimidation.
To report suspected threats or violent acts, contact your local FBI office and request to speak with the Election Crimes Coordinator. Contact information for every FBI field office may be found on the FBI website or file an online complaint at www.tips.fbi.gov.