In a step toward accountability around increasingly violent election-related rhetoric, the Department of Justice announced charges Friday against a Texas man who made threats to kill an election official and other government officials in Georgia.
Chad Christopher Stark, of Leander, Texas, allegedly posted that it was “time to kill” three unnamed election and government officials on a Craigslist message board on Jan. 5, 2021, the day of the special Senate elections in Georgia.
“Georgia Patriots it’s time to kill [Official A] the Chinese agent - $10,000,” he wrote, according to the indictment. “It’s our duty as American Patriots to put an end to the lives of these traitors and take back our country by force. We can no longer wait on the corrupt law enforcement in the corrupt courts. If we want our country back we have to exterminate these people.”
Stark has been charged with one count of communicating interstate threats, and if convicted, could face a maximum of five years in prison.
In a press call Friday, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. said the charges took months of work from the task force, as the force identified and interviewed witnesses while reviewing First Amendment protections. The case was investigated in conjunction with the FBI.
“Not all threats will rise to the level of a federal offense,” said Polite. “But the communication here speaks for itself.”
Polite referred to the threat as an “advertisement,” in which Stark allegedly offered $10,000 to those who would join him.
It’s the first federal charge of its kind brought by the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force, a specific division formed in June 2021 focusing on threats to election workers. Since the task force was created six months ago, there have been more than 850 referrals of potentially harassing statements, according to the department.
Election officials across the country have been the target of hundreds of threats since the 2020 presidential election made by those who believe the election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. Some of these election officials have experienced physical stalking, explicitly violent phone calls, racial slurs, home surveillance, bomb scares, and threats of mass shootings. Many officials are now quitting, citing fears for their safety.
Election officials in Georgia welcome the news of the indictment but are still frustrated by the lack of law enforcement response.
“I’m encouraged that there has been an indictment against someone who threatened an elections official, but it seems like you have to be an elected official or a judge in order for the police or FBI to make a move,” said Richard Barron, election director of Fulton County, Georgia.
Barron and his staff received more than 150 threatening voicemails and emails in the months after the 2020 presidential election. He reported one threat to the FBI over the summer when a member of the DOJ’s task force came to Fulton County.
“Hey, Rick,” started the voicemail he reported to the FBI. “Two hundred and thirty four years ago, the founding caucasian fathers of America gave us the Second Amendment. Time's running out, Richard. We're coming after you and every motherfucker that stole this election with our Second Amendment, subpoenas be damned, you're going to be served lead, you fucking enemy communist cocksucker. You will be served lead.”
Barron has not heard anything from the FBI or the DOJ task force since reporting the threat.
“It seems like elected officials get the special treatment,” said Barron.
In a statement to VICE News, a DOJ spokesperson declined to comment on Barron’s remarks.
Still, some experts think this indictment is a positive sign. “This is a good first step. There must be accountability for the criminals who are threatening the public servants who ensured that the 2020 election was the most secure in history,” election administration expert and former Department of Justice civil rights division lawyer David Becker told VICE News. Becker has offered pro-bono legal counsel and representation to election workers across the country who have been threatened in the wake of the 2020 elections through the Election Official Legal Defense Network.
He added that, according to his conversations with Georgia election officials, they continue to receive “vicious threats even now,” despite the 2020 presidential election being more than 500 days ago.
“This must stop,” Becker said.
For election officials like Barron, a substantial law enforcement response is not enough to prevent future threats. “Until elected leaders from both parties start speaking out about what really happened in the 2020 presidential election,” said Barron, “these threats are going to keep happening.”