Nearly a month has passed since a federal judge found that civil rights groups would prove that hard-right pranksters Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman engaged in “electoral terror” in robocalls that he found reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan. Now, lawyers for the duo want the same judge to sanction a civil rights group for filing a lawsuit that the judge predicted would succeed.
“New York’s Anti-SLAPP statute applies and authorizes an award of defendants’ fees and costs,” Wohl and Burkman’s attorneys David Schwartz and Randy Kleinman wrote in a three-page letter on Wednesday.
The Thanksgiving eve request comes nearly a month after U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero’s ruling found that the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) would likely prove that Wohl and Burkman violated the Voting Rights Act and Ku Klux Klan Act.
“The right to vote embodies the very essence of democracy,” Marrero wrote in the introduction of his opinion. “Absent free and fair elections uninfluenced by fear, the underpinnings of democratic rule would crumble. The United States Constitution, as enforced by Congress and the courts, enshrines these principles.”
On top of facing felony criminal charges in Ohio and Michigan, Wohl and Burkman face civil charges in the Southern District of New York over the same scare-mongering robocalls that a federal judge found to be both false and illegal.
“Mail-in voting sounds great,” the message said. “But did you know that if you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants, and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debt? The CDC is even pushing to give preference for mail in voting to track people for mandatory vaccines.”
Judge Marrero found twice that Wohl and Burkman must inform the recipients of these messages, voiced by a woman identifying herself as “Tamika Taylor” and sent to areas with large numbers of Black voters, that this was election misinformation that violated the law.
In their new letter, Wohl and Burkman call it protected First Amendment speech. They want the judge who disagreed to dismiss the case and sanction their opposing counsel.
One of those lawyers, Aaron Gold, called that gambit dead on arrival.
“Defendants’ arguments are meritless and would waste the Court’s time, as well as the parties’ resources, given that the Court has already considered—and rejected—most of the arguments in the letter,” Gold wrote.
As for the requested sanction, Gold noted plainly: “Plaintiffs clearly meet that standard, as the Court found that Plaintiffs established the likelihood of success on the merits.”
Read the three-page letter and exhibits below:
[image via screengrab/CNN Headline News]
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