Douglass Mackey, the creator of a popular pro-Trump Twitter account, has been sentenced to seven months in prison after he was convicted of election interference over social media posts.
Mackey was accused of a “scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote,” after a Twitter account he ran under the handle “Ricky Vaughn” posted memes in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. One image showed a black woman standing in front of an “African Americans for Hillary” sign and said “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home,” “Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925.”
U.S. District Judge Ann M. Donnelly, an Obama appointee, sentenced Mackey, claiming that his actions were “nothing short of an assault on our democracy,” according to Courthouse News Service.
“Voting is the right that secures all other rights we hold dear,” Department of Justice Attorney Erik David Paulsen said Wednesday. “They were committing fraud, one that was aimed at one of our most sacred rights in our democracy.”
Mackey was charged one week after President Joe Biden assumed office and roughly four years after the 2016 election. The Justice Department claimed that Mackey had conspired to “injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate” people from exercising their right to vote. Prosecutors said that he and others had “intended variously to provoke, mislead, and, in some cases, deceive voters in the 2016 presidential election” with their posts.
The Justice Department said that Mackey had worked with other influential Twitter users between September 2016 and November 2016 to “disseminate fraudulent messages” which persuaded voters for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to cast their ballots via phone or social media. According to the government, some 4,900 people texted the number, but it’s unclear how many people, if anyone, fell for the meme and did not cast the vote they intended to cast; or were merely participating in the joke.
James Lawrence, an attorney for Mackey, previously said in an interview with The Daily Wire that his memes were satirical and were therefore not relevant to the law he purportedly violated. Mackey faced as many as 10 years in prison.
Mackey lawyer Andrew Frisch said that prison time was unnecessary, while Paulesen said it was needed to “send a message to the general public.”
Prosecutors also took aim at Mackey for derogatory posts he had made toward black people and women, but Donnely said her sentence did not have to do with his political beliefs. “You are not being sentenced for your political beliefs or for expressing those beliefs,” she said.
As Mackey was prosecuted, some conservatives have pointed to a video made by comedian Kristina Wong urging Trump supporters to vote by text or on Wednesday, the day after the 2016 election. Wong, who was wearing a MAGA hat and had Trump signs in the back of the video, never faced any consequences for her video.
In an opinion piece for National Review, former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy contended that Mackey’s right to free speech had been violated in a politically motivated case by the Biden administration. “It’s a three-fer: the prosecutorial creation of a crime Congress has not prescribed, the trivialization of civil-rights law, and the intrusion of government as a monitor of political speech.”