Conservative activists Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl dropped their appeal of a court order which accused them of inciting “electoral terror” over thousands of false and anti-vote-by-mail robocalls targeting Black voters in various cities across the country.
The appeal effort was brought in a civil case filed in New York City federal court by a nonpartisan civil rights and racial justice organization over those robocalls, which targeted communities of color. A judge found that calls were designed to keep minorities from voting in the presidential election in a manner reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan. Local prosecutors in Michigan and Ohio have leveled felony charges against both of the men.
“Appellants move to withdraw the appeal,” a one-page filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit filed Monday said.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero previously issued a temporary restraining order in late October after Burkman and Wohl appeared in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) without an attorney and defended themselves by admitting to placing the robocalls.
Judge Marrero’s stinging opinion likened the defendants’ actions to those of the original incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan:
Today, almost 150 years later, the forces and conflicts that animated Congress’s adoption of the Ku Klux Klan Act as well as subsequent voting rights legislation, are playing out again before this court, though with a difference. In the current version of events, the means [Burkman and Wohl] use to intimidate voters, though born of fear and similarly powered by hate, are not guns, torches, burning crosses, and other dire methods perpetrated under the cover of white hoods. Rather, [Burkman and Wohl] carry out electoral terror using telephones, computers, and modern technology adapted to serve the same deleterious ends.
The robocalls reached an estimated 85,000 residents in New York, Michigan and Ohio. The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) filed the lawsuit in late October.
Finding in favor of the civil rights group, Marrero barred Burkman and Wohl from making additional robocalls before Election Day and send out a new slate of messages to each recipient informing them that the judge found the recorded message both false and illegal.
After the duo blew past a deadline to place such “curative calls,” a raft of additional litigation and courtroom theatrics ensued at a hearing placing them in jeopardy of contempt of court.
On October 30, Wohl and Burkman, through their attorneys, explained away their failure to comply with the court’s order by citing physical limitations on obtaining the data and technology necessary—and by taking issue with the proposed language of the curative calls.
A second hearing occurred later that same day during which the court agreed to remove Burkman’s and Wohl’s names from the remedial message, a minor but important victory for them to keep the jury pool untainted. Their attorneys then filed a progress report noting that their clients had begun to substantially comply with the court’s order by obtaining a vendor who was able to make just shy of 30,000 curative robocalls on the first day they actually tried to comply. The pair eventually reached nearly all of the original recipients.
After that, however, and again on the same day, Burkman and Wohl filed a notice of appeal with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Now, more than a week later, the appeal has been withdrawn.
Law&Crime reached out to NCBCP attorney Rachelle Navarro and asked what the plaintiffs think about the case wrapping up this way.
“No comment,” she said in an email.
Law&Crime reached out to Wohl and his lead attorney in the civil case but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.
[image via screengrab/YouTube]
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