'We're going to hang you': Man charged in threat against Arizona election officials




  • In US
  • 2022-10-07 02:03:00Z
  • By AZCentral | The Arizona Republic
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Clint Hickman holds up a claim about the 2020 general election made by Senate Republican contractor Cyber Ninjas during a hearing before the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Clint Hickman holds up a claim about the 2020 general election made by Senate Republican contractor Cyber Ninjas during a hearing before the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.  

An Iowa man arrested Thursday is accused of threatening to kill Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman and an official at the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

Mark A. Rissi, 64, of Hiawatha, Iowa, was charged with two counts of making a threatening interstate communication and one count of making a threatening telephone call, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Rissi was taken into custody in his city of residence and on Tuesday had an initial court appearance at a Cedar Rapids, Iowa federal courthouse, according to the DOJ.

Rissi is suspected of leaving an expletive-filled voicemail on Sept. 27, 2021, for a Maricopa County Board supervisor and telling the official he and others were going to "lynch" him for "lying" about the 2020 election results, according to a department press release.

On Tuesday, Hickman's office confirmed he was the county board supervisor Rissi was said to have threatened. A statement from Hickman said he has been threatened "numerous times" in the past two years, along with some of his other colleagues on the board.

"And worst of all, county elections staff doing their job honorably are getting calls and emails threatening violence, calling them traitors. It's despicable," Hickman's statement read in part.

The Department of Justice released a partially redacted text of the voicemail left for Hickman:

"I remember exactly where I was when I heard that voicemail. It was chilling. This wasn't a prank call. This wasn't protected speech. This was a serious threat to me and my family," Hickman said in the statement.

Elections: New poll shows Arizona voters believe in the election system

Rissi is also suspected of leaving a Dec. 8 voicemail with an unidentified official with the Arizona AG's office threatening to hang this person for supposed election fraud in Maricopa County and statewide.

The DOJ also released a partially redacted text of the December voicemail:

If convicted, Rissi could be sentenced up to five years in prison for each threatening interstate communication count and up to two years in prison on the threatening telephone call charge, according to the Justice Department.

In a Nov. 17, 2020, letter, two weeks after Election Day, Hickman penned a letter to voters defending the integrity of the election. The then board of supervisors' chairman, Hickman wrote in the letter that there was no evidence of fraud, misconduct or malfunction.

Hickman, a Republican who has been representing District 4 since 2013, went on to take unnamed Arizona leaders to task for not saying more on the issue.

"And by and large, people in positions of power, in positions of leadership, in positions of influence here in Arizona are silent.  How can you be silent?" Hickman's statement read.

Hickman in his statement called for others to also denounce these kind of threats.

"So I'm speaking out today in hopes that others will follow. Whether it's a person who shares your politics or your worldview or not, no one should be subjected to this kind of hatred. And if we truly want to keep our country great, we will do everything we can to denounce threats against election workers and combat the disinformation that imperils our democracy," Hickman's statement read.

This is the Justice Department's most recent indictment of someone suspected of threatening an Arizona elections official.

A 50-year-old Missouri man was indicted in August on suspicion of leaving a threatening voicemail to Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer in May 2021 for speaking out against the Arizona Senate Audit. A 38-year-old Massachusetts man was indicted in July on suspicion of making a bomb threat to an election official in the Arizona Secretary of State's Office in February 2021.

A new normal? Threats against election officials unlikely to stop, county recorder says

Ahead of Arizona's August primary, The Arizona Republic reported on election officials leaving their posts in response to threats they received.

The FBI's Phoenix field office, with assistance from its Cedar Rapids counterpart, is investigating the case against Rissi, according to the Justice Department. The case, the DOJ mentioned, is part of its election threats task force launched June 2021.

Suspected threats or violent acts regarding elections in Arizona can be made to the election crimes coordinator at the FBI's Phoenix field office at 623-466-1999. Tips can also be made to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or at tips.fbi.gov.

Sasha Hupka contributed to this article. 

Reach breaking news reporter Jose R. Gonzalez at jose.gonzalez@gannett.com or on Twitter @jrgzztx.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: DOJ: Man threatened to kill election officials in Arizona

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