California man gets 3 years over threats to lawmakers, journalists who said Trump lost
Phil Helsel December 22, 2021
A California man who threatened dozens of people, including politicians, journalists and their families, who said that then-President Donald Trump lost the November election has been sentenced to three years, prosecutors said.
Robert Lemke, 36, of Bay Point in the San Francisco Bay Area, was sentenced Monday by a federal judge, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said.
The targets included U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., whose brother was sent a text on Jan. 6 that read: “Your brother is putting your entire family at risk with his lies and other words. We are armed and nearby your house,” according to court documents.
When Lemke was arrested, a criminal complaint did not name Jeffries, but the congressman has said he was targeted.
Two journalists for CNN were also threatened. The network’s Brian Stelter said he spoke at Lemke’s sentencing and wrote about the experience Monday.
Stelter said that anchor Don Lemon told the judge, “I am tired of looking over my shoulder” and “I am tired of being called ‘fake news’ and even more horrendous names,” including racial and anti-gay slurs.
Stelter said Lemon also rejected arguments that Lemke was misled by social media after Trump’s loss. “For people like him, it is never their fault,” Lemon said, according to Stelter.
Lemke sent threats to about 50 people from November through early January, prosecutors said. Some said “Stop telling lies; Biden did not win, he will not be president,” according to court documents.
Prosecutors called it “a concerted campaign, sustained over more than two months, to terrify and intimidate dozens of journalists, members of Congress and their families in the wake of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.”
The threats contained personal information, including addresses and in some cases, photos of homes interiors, according to court documents. Text messages were sent Jan. 6 during the riot at the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
One threat sent Jan. 9 read: “You do understand not only your life, but your families” are at risk. “We know everything.”
Lemke, who was arrested in late January, pleaded guilty to making threatening interstate communications in October.
His federal public defender did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.
Lemke’s attorney wrote ahead of sentencing that Lemke was isolated and fell down a social media rabbit hole, where he’d been convinced the election was fraudulent and he lost sense of himself. Lemke in a letter to the judge wrote that he was ashamed of his conduct.
Prosecutors wrote Lemke had shown a lack of remorse. They wrote in a sentencing memorandum that he wrote his mother on Dec. 1 that “I’m the victim here,” and that in November, he described himself as a “political prisoner.”