Justice Department prosecutors on Friday charged a Texas man who allegedly made threats against election workers in Georgia.
Prosecutors allege that Chad Christopher Stark posted a message on Craigslist saying, “Georgia Patriots it’s time for us to take back our state from these lawless treasonous traitors. It’s time to invoke our Second Amendment right it’s time to put a bullet in the treasonous Chinese” – a reference, prosecutors say, to an election official not identified in court documents.
The charges say that Stark also threatened two other government officials, who are also not named in the indictment, and others.
The message also reads, “militia up Georgia it’s time to spill blood….we need to pay a visit to [Official C] and her family as well and put a bullet her behind the ears,” 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,” he wrote, according to the indictment.
Stark had posted the message on or around January 5, a day before the US Capitol was stormed by supporters of former President Donald Trump who tried to stop Congress’ certification of the 2020 election.
The Washington Post first reported on the indictment.
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday condemned threats made against election officials, and other public servants, saying that “the very least we can do is to commit to keeping them safe.”
“There is no First Amendment right to unlawfully threaten to harm or kill someone and bitter historical experience has made clear that the time to address threats is when they occur, not after a tragedy has struck,” he said at an annual meeting for the US Conference of Mayors. “The Justice Department will continue to do all it can to hold accountable those who target public servants with violence or illegal threats of violence.”
“Indeed today, we are taking law enforcement action to that end,” he added.
The charge is the first from a six-month-old Justice Department task force focusing on threats against election officials around the country.
The Justice Department has dozens of ongoing investigations into threats against election workers around the country, and has received more than 850 referrals on such possible crimes, Kenneth Polite, the assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, told reporters Friday.
Election supervisors and the rank-and-file workers across the country have reported a barrage of threats spurred by falsehoods that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
The task force, launched in June, is led by John Keller, a top attorney in the DOJ’s Public Integrity section, and includes members from the Criminal Division, Civil Rights Division and the FBI to address the rise in threats against election officials.
A Justice Department spokesman said that threats against election workers have “historically been handled primarily as a state or local matter, usually without significant federal involvement” but that “changing rapidly in response to the surge in threats nationwide since the last election cycle.”
The department conducted training in July for FBI agents and US Attorney Offices on the issue. Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray and other top DOJ officials also met with some 1,400 election officials in late August to discuss the mounting threats.
In September, the FBI ramped up its investigations into the threats against election officials, reaching out for the first time in some cases to election supervisors and others who have endured months of harassment, local officials told CNN at the time.
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Fredreka Schouten contributed to this report.