Far-right conspiracy theorists and political operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were arraigned Thursday in a Michigan court on felony charges of orchestrating robocalls to deter voters from engaging in the upcoming Nov. 3 general election.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Wohl, 22, and Burkman, 54, surrendered to law enforcement at the Detroit Detention Center early Thursday morning. They were arraigned before Magistrate Joseph Boyer in Detroit’s 36th District Court.
Wohl and Burkman pleaded not guilty to the felony charges. Nessel in early October filed the charges against them after her office investigated the robocalls, which targeted Black voters in Detroit in late August.
The two each face the following charges:
- One count of election law – intimidating voters, a five-year felony.
- One count of conspiracy to commit an election law violation, a five-year felony.
- One count of using a computer to commit the crime of election law – intimidating voters, a seven-year felony.
- Using a computer to commit the crime of conspiracy, a seven-year felony.
A probable cause conference for Burkman is set for Oct. 15. His preliminary exam is scheduled for Oct. 21. A probable cause conference for Wohl is also scheduled for Oct. 15, while his preliminary exam is set for Oct. 20.
Bail for each is $100,000.
The robocalls circulated in Detroit in late August and reached almost 12,000 residents with 313 area code phone numbers.
Nessel’s office worked with attorneys general in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois on the investigation. Each state experienced robocalls, with about 85,000 calls made nationally.
The woman speaking in the robocall claimed personal information of people who vote by mail will become part of an unspecified public database. The call falsely claimed that voting by mail will allow law enforcement officials to track down old warrants and credit card companies to collect outstanding debts.
It also claimed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would use personal information to track people for mandatory vaccines, a conspiracy theory that’s been more aggressively peddled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The woman ends the call by telling voters to “beware” of voting by mail.
Anyone who got the call “on or about Aug. 26” who wants to file a complaint can contact Nessel’s office at 517-335-7650.