Iowa man arrested for threatening Arizona election official

  • In US
  • 2022-10-07 13:18:15Z
  • By CBS News

An Iowa man has been arrested for allegedly threatening to "lynch" and "hang" a Maricopa County, Arizona, election official nearly a year after the 2020 election, the Justice Department announced.

Mark Rissi was arrested Thursday for allegedly leaving voicemails for the unnamed election official, in which Rissi allegedly threatened the official with lynching, hanging, and torches, according to the indictment filed against him. The arrest comes as the FBI continues to warn about heightened threats to election officials across seven states, including Arizona, where election deniers continue to disbelieve that President Biden legitimately won.

"Hello Mr. [VICTIM], I am glad that you are standing up for democracy and want to place your hand on the Bible and say that the election was honest and fair," Rissi allegedly said in a voicemail left on approximately Sept. 27, 2021, according to court documents. "I really appreciate that. When we come to lynch your stupid lying Commie [expletive], you'll remember that you lied on the [expletive] Bible, you piece of [expletive]. You're gonna die, you piece of [expletive]. We're going to hang you. We're going to hang you."

In another message on about Dec. 8, 2021, Rissi allegedly left a voicemail for an election official in the Arizona attorney general's office about the Maricopa County official. The Arizona attorney general is the highest law enforcement official in the state.

"I'm a victim of a crime," Rissi allegedly said. "My family is a victim of a crime. My extended family is a victim of a crime. That crime was the theft of the 2020 election. The election that was fraudulent across the state of Arizona, that [VICTIM] knows was fraudulent, that [VICTIM] has images of the conspirators deleting election fraud data from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors computer system. Do your job, [VICTIM], or you will hang with those [expletive] in the end. We will see to it. Torches and pitchforks. That's your future, [expletive]. Do your job."

Rissi faces two counts of making a threatening interstate communication and one count of making a threatening phone call. He faces up to 12 years in prison, if convicted on all counts.

The FBI is still investigating the case, which is a part of the Justice Department's Election Threats Task Force announced by the Justice Department in June 2021.

In 2021, the GOP-led Arizona Senate ordered a controversial review of Maricopa County's 2.1 million 2020 ballots and voting equipment. Maricopa County is Arizona's most populous county and was a longtime Republican stronghold, but President Biden carried it by about 45,000 votes. A cybersecurity firm, Cyber Ninjas, was selected to lead the review, though it had no experience with official election audits, and its CEO, Doug Logan, had promoted election conspiracy theories on social media. Ultimately, the nonbinding review re-affirmed Mr. Biden's victory.

Election deniers continue to hold and run for some of the top offices across the country. Arizona's Republican nominee for secretary of state, Arizona's highest ranking election official, Mark Finchem, still won't say President Biden legitimately won the election.

Seven states across the country continue to see unusual levels of threats to election workers, senior FBI officials said in a briefing Monday.

Those states are Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin - all states where the 2020 election results were questioned, officials noted, and all states won by President Biden. FBI officials are discussing how to address these threats as state officials in 8,800 election districts prepare for the midterm elections next month.

Since June 2021, the FBI has received more than 1,000 tips concerning threats to election workers, according to the agency. Roughly 11% of those tips have led to FBI investigations.

- Nicole Sganga contributed to this report .

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