Ohio man indicted for threatening Arizona election official

PHOENIX (AP) — An Ohio man was charged in federal court Wednesday for making a series of threats to an Arizona state election official.

A grand jury in Phoenix indicted Joshua Russell, 44, of Bucyrus, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

He is charged with three counts each of making a threatening interstate communication and making a threatening interstate telephone call.

Russell is accused of leaving a menacing voicemail for an official with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office the day of the state’s August primary, again in September and then a week after the November general election.

According to court documents, Russell called the official a “traitor” and a “terrorist.” Every voicemail also included a death threat.

Prosecutors did not identify the election official.

Russell was arrested and made an initial court appearance Monday. He could face up more than 20 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

Court records did not show an attorney listed for Russell.

The FBI’s Phoenix field office is leading the investigation.

This case is one of multiple cases that are being probed by a DOJ task force focused solely on election threats.

In August, the DOJ charged five people for making threats of violence against election workers amid a rising wave of harassment and intimidation tied to the 2020 presidential election. At the time, the department had investigated more than 1,000 harassing and threatening messages directed at election workers. Roughly 100 of those rose to the level of potential prosecution.

Arizona, which has been an epicenter for election misinformation, has been especially targeted.

In July, the FBI arrested a Massachusetts man for threatening to blow up Arizona’s top election official following the 2020 election that saw former President Donald Trump lose in the state. He was accused of threatening to detonate a bomb in Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ “personal space” if she did not resign.

Hobbs went on to win the race for Arizona governor.

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