A Nebraska man pleaded guilty on Thursday to threatening Colorado’s secretary of state on Instagram last yr, the primary conviction resulting from the work of a Justice Department task force focused on combating the intimidation of election officials.
Federal prosecutors said Travis Ford, 42, of Lincoln, Neb., would withstand two years in prison for the social media posts. Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat with whom Republican allies of former President Donald J. Trump have tussled regarding her overseeing of elections, including the 2020 presidential contest, identified herself because the goal.
The duty force, created last yr in response to a rising variety of threats against election officials, has publicly disclosed three criminal cases thus far. One in all the others involves a Texas man who’s accused of sending election-related threats to officials in Georgia; the third centers on a Nevada man who the authorities say made menacing phone calls to an election worker within the Nevada secretary of state’s office. Each of those cases are pending.
The threats against Ms. Griswold began together with her wishing her partner a comfortable anniversary on her personal Instagram account last August. A torrent of insults flooded the replies section, some calling her a traitor and others more ominous of their tone.
Two posts particularly unnerved Ms. Griswold’s office, which reported them to law enforcement officials. The primary one referred to George Soros, the billionaire investor and Democratic Party donor whom those on the political right have accused of getting an outsize influence over elections.
“Do you’re feeling protected? You shouldn’t. Do you think that Soros will/can protect you?”
About ten days later, the identical account left one other, more menacing comment on the identical photo.
“Your security detail is much too thin and incompetent to guard you,” the comment read. “This world is unpredictable nowadays … anything can occur to anyone.”
Ms. Griswold’s office confirmed the authenticity of the posts, which still appeared on Instagram as of Friday and were cited in court documents from the Justice Department. The posts were removed later within the day by Meta, the social media company that owns Instagram and Facebook, following an inquiry from The Latest York Times. The corporate didn’t immediately comment.
A lawyer for Mr. Ford, who stays free and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 6, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment on Friday.
In an announcement announcing that Mr. Ford had pleaded guilty, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said on Thursday that the Justice Department wouldn’t tolerate such threats.
“Threats of violence against election officials are dangerous for people’s safety and dangerous for our democracy,” Mr. Garland said.
Ms. Griswold, who’s searching for re-election this yr as Colorado’s top election official, said that she would never be deterred from doing her job.
“Elections officials across the country have been facing increased threats,” Ms. Griswold said. “It’s heartening to see the Department of Justice taking these threats seriously and prosecuting individuals who make threats against election officials based on the Big Lie.”
Like a number of Democrats accountable for voting, Ms. Griswold has been engaged in a series of legal feuds with Republican election supervisors in several counties.
In May, a Colorado judge sided with Ms. Griswold in a lawsuit against Tina Peters, a pro-Trump election supervisor who’s running within the Republican primary for secretary of state. The judge blocked Ms. Peters from overseeing elections this yr in Mesa County after she was indicted in March on charges that she tampered with voting equipment after the 2020 election.
Ms. Peters, clinging to conspiracy theories that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump, will appear on the highest line of the Republican primary ballot on June 28. She will not be the one pro-Trump election official Ms. Griswold has accused of breaching voting equipment in Colorado.
In April, Dallas Schroeder, the Elbert County clerk and recorder, was ordered by a judge to give up to the secretary of state all external copies of a voting machine hard disk drive that he had acknowledged making with a scanning device before a software update in August 2021.