A pair of right-wing troublemakers were sentenced Tuesday to spend 500 hours registering voters after they pleaded guilty to telecom fraud related to robocalls made ahead of the 2020 election.
Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were also sentenced to two years probation and 12 hours a day of electronic monitoring for six months, according to Cuyahoga County, Ohio prosecutors.
“These two individuals attempted to upset the foundation of our democracy,” County Attorney Michael O’Malley said in a statement. “His sentence of two years probation and 500 hours of community service in a voter registration drive is fitting.”
Wohl and Burkman were charged with telecommunications fraud and bribery, accused of attempting to intimidate voters with bogus robocalls about voting by mail. The robocalls, which officials say reached thousands of voters in several states ahead of the election, falsely claimed that voting by mail would put voters in a database that would be used to collect outstanding debts, track court orders, or make comply with mandatory vaccinations.
Burkman, of Arlington, Virginia, and Wohl, of Irvine, California, have been charged with attempting to sway 85,000 voters in urban areas across the country with robocalls, which included misinformation about voting by mail, in Ohio, Illinois, New York, California, Pennsylvania, and other states. Prosecutors said more than 8,100 robocalls were sent to phone numbers of residents in Cleveland and East Cleveland alone.
Wohl and Burkman identified themselves in the calls and admitted under oath that they created them, but denied doing anything illegal and insisted the calls were the exercise of free speech rights and were not designed to intimidate, threaten or suppress voting. .
Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James sought $2.7 million in fines for robocalls allegedly intended to suppress black voting ahead of the 2020 election. James at the time said Wohl and Burkman “used misinformation to trying to disenfranchise Black communities before the election, in a clear attempt to influence the election in favor of their preferred presidential candidate.” A settlement was announced this year. The Federal Communications Commission also proposed a $5.1 million fine.
Burkman and Wohl drew attention for several failed schemes to target opponents of former President Donald Trump with false accusations of sexual misconduct and other criminal activity. Some of his failed smear campaigns targeted Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren, as well as former special counsel Robert Mueller.