In October 2020, Ohio prosecutors charged right-wing agents Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl with telecommunications fraud in connection with the scheme, and two years later, both men pleaded guilty.
Now they have their punishment: they have to spend 500 hours helping people register to vote.
Judge John Sutula of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in Ohio also sentenced Burkman and Wohl to two years probation, fines of $2,500 each and electronic monitoring from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for six months, according to the county attorney’s office.
“I think it’s a despicable thing you’ve done,” the judge said Tuesday, comparing the robocall scam to efforts to suppress black Southern voters in the 1960s, Cleveland.com reported.
Burkman, 56, and Wohl, 24, staged several irreverent stunts to add to the stream of misinformation that bombarded Americans ahead of the 2020 presidential election. In addition to operating the robocalls, the couple called a press conference promising to produce a sexual assault accuser against Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, although the alleged accuser never showed up. They allegedly recruited young Republican men to make false sexual assault allegations against then-presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. They staged a fake FBI raid on Burkman’s home in Arlington, Virginia, which briefly fooled the Washington Post.
“These two individuals attempted to disrupt the foundations of our democracy,” a spokesperson for the Cuyahoga County District Attorney’s Office wrote to the Post on Wednesday. “Their sentence of two years probation and 500 hours of community service during a voter registration drive is appropriate.”
A lawyer for Wohl declined to comment on The Post but told CNN he was “satisfied with the outcome” and that Wohl was “generally remorseful.” A lawyer for Burkman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Wohl said he wanted to “express my absolute regret and shame at all of this,” Cleveland.com reported. Burkman said he would “just echo Mr. Wohl’s sentiment,” according to the outlet.
Burkman and Wohl were charged after a wave of about 85,000 robocalls targeting voters in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois in 2020.
The calls falsely warned recipients that the personal information of those who registered to vote by mail would be shared with police, credit card companies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Voters were told not to be ‘encouraged to give the man your private information’.
In October 2020, Michigan’s attorney general brought felony charges against the intimidating pair of voters for the first time, conspiring to violate election law and using a computer to commit a crime. Dave Yost, the Ohio attorney general, investigated Burkman and Wohl before referring them to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor the same month, he said in a statement. The New York Attorney General joined a lawsuit against the couple filed by various civil rights organizations in May 2021.
FCC proposes record $5 million fine against Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman for election robocalls
Attorneys general alleged that the robocall operation targeted minority communities to remove their right to vote.
Cases against Burkman and Wohl in Michigan and New York are ongoing. Burkman and Wohl could also face a historic $5 million fine from the Federal Communications Commission for making robocalls to cellphones without people’s consent.