A self-proclaimed far-right propagandist from Florida was convicted Friday on charges of conspiring to disenfranchise individuals in the 2016 presidential election.
Douglas Mackey, 33, of West Palm Beach, Florida, was sentenced in Brooklyn federal court before Judge Ann M. Donnelly after a weeklong trial. He was known on the Internet as “Ricky Vaughn.”
In 2016, Mackey had about 58,000 Twitter followers and was the 107th most influential influencer in the upcoming presidential election, according to prosecutors at the MIT Media Lab. He described himself as an “American nationalist” who regularly retweeted Trump and promoted conspiracy theories about Democratic voter fraud.
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Maki, who was arrested in January 2021, could face up to 10 years in prison. The announcement of his sentence is scheduled for August 16.
His attorney, Andrew Frisch, said in an email that 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in manhattan there will be several reasons to choose from to get the criminal record expunged.
“We’re optimistic about our chances on appeal,” Frisch said.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a release that jurors rejected Mackey’s cynical attempt to use First Amendment free speech protections to shield himself from criminal liability for a voter suppression scheme.
“Today’s verdict shows that the defendant’s fraudulent actions crossed the line of criminality,” he said.
The government alleged that between September 2016 and November 2016, Maki conspired with several other online influencers to spread deceptive messages to Clinton supporters.
During the trial, prosecutors told jurors that Mackay urged supporters of then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to “vote” via text message or social media, knowing the endorsements were not legally valid votes.
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Around the same time, prosecutors said, he sent tweets suggesting it was important to limit “black turnout” at the polls. One of the tweets he sent included a photo of a black woman with the Clinton campaign’s caption urging people to “skip the line” and “vote at home,” court documents said.
Prosecutors said one of the images on social media encouraging fake votes used a font similar to the one used by the Clinton campaign in the actual ad. Others tried to imitate Clinton’s ad in other ways, they added.
By Election Day in 2016, at least 4,900 unique phone numbers were texting “Hillary” or something similar to the text number, which was distributed through several deceptive campaign images posted in tweets by Mackey and his associates, prosecutors said.
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Twitter said it was working closely with the relevant authorities on the matter.