Texas man charged with threatening Georgia election officials pleads not guilty

FILE PHOTO: An American flag sign is seen on a voting booth at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Texas man accused by U.S. federal prosecutors of threatening to kill election and government officials during a wave of violent rhetoric by believers in former President Donald Trump's false claim of voter fraud pleaded not guilty on Friday.

Chad Christopher Stark, 54, of Leander, Texas, is accused of https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-charges-texas-man-threatening-georgia-government-officials-2022-01-21 posting a Jan. 5, 2021, message on Craigslist that read in part: "Georgia Patriots it's time to kill ... It's time for us to take back our state from these Lawless treasonous traitors."

Stark is the first person charged by a new federal task force formed shortly after Reuters published the first in a series https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-trump-georgia-threats of investigative reports that have documented more than 850 threats and menacing messages to U.S. election workers.

Stark appeared in a brief virtual court hearing on Friday in the Northern District of Georgia to enter his not guilty plea. He is currently out on bond pending trial.

The Stark indictment did not identify the victims of his threats, but Reuters previously reported that two of the officials include Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp.

Both Raffensperger and Kemp are Republicans who defended the integrity of the Georgia election despite intense pressure from Trump, who in January 2021 called Raffensperger and told him to find enough votes to overturn his loss.

Trump continues to falsely claim he lost the November 2020 election due to widespread fraud despite multiple court losses and audits confirming Joe Biden's victory.

Remarks Trump made on Saturday at an event in Texas prompted a Georgia prosecutor https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/georgia-prosecutor-seeks-fbi-protections-after-trump-remarks-2022-01-31 who is conducting a criminal investigation of the former president to ask the FBI for protection.

Stark's case is one of dozens under investigation by federal authorities.

The Justice Department last week unveiled charges https://www.reuters.com/world/us/nevada-man-charged-with-threatening-state-elections-official-2022-01-28 against a second man, 50-year-old Las Vegas resident Gjergi Luke Juncal, who they accuse of making threatening phone calls to a state election worker. He has pleaded not guilty, and a trial was tentatively scheduled for the end of March.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone, Lisa Shumaker and Mark Porter)