White nationalist Douglass Mackey, the social media influencer better known by his meme-war nom de guerre Ricky Vaughn, was permitted to await trial outside of jail on allegations that he illegally tried to suppress the Black vote to swing the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor through a racist campaign targeting Hillary Clinton’s more diverse backers.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann formalized Mackey’s $50,000 personal recognizance bond during a brief telephone arraignment on Wednesday, which was previously agreed upon the the government and Mackey’s defense counsel Tor Ekeland.
Well-known for representing notorious hackers like Andrew Alаn Auernheimer— a neo-Nazi better known as “weev” who penetrated AT&T’s servers—Ekeland specializes in the type of computer fraud cases that landed Mackey into hot water four years after his allegedly illegal memes.
In the lead-up to the 2016 election, the “avowed racist” made national headlines by using his massive online following to disseminate doctored ads encouraging supporters of then-candidate Hillary Clinton to “vote from home” by texting “Hillary” to a five-digit number.
Data produced by the company that owned the five-digit text code listed in Mackey’s doctored ads showed that at least 4,900 unique telephone numbers attempted to vote via text, prosecutors say.
Loyola University professor Robert A. McNees raised alarms about the tweet two days before the election.
The memes had the image of a Black woman at the center—and prosecutors say that his private direct messages show that is no accident.
“Obviously, we can win Pennsylvania,” Mackey allegedly wrote to four alleged co-conspirators of the group’s “war room” forums just days before the election. “The key is to drive up turnout with non-college whites, and limit black turnout.”
Prosecutors claim that the messages focused on “how best to influence the Election,” eventually collaborating to “create, refine and share memes and hashtags” for distribution on various social media platforms.
An allusion to the Hollywood baseball film Major League, several “Ricky Vaughn” social media accounts have since been shut down, but the messages from Mackey’s online pseudonym were massively influential with his online followers. In the February before the election, MIT Media Lab reportedly ranked Mackey 107th “most important influencer” in the then-upcoming election, outranking NBC News, Stephen Colbert, and Newt Gingrich.
The ranking apparently stunned Mackey, whose criminal complaint shows him responding: “unreal.”
Mackey had multiple accounts under the pseudonym, one of which Twitter suspended for targeted harassment on Oct. 8, 2016, prosecutors say.
According to court papers, Mackey and his peers conceived of the hashtag #DraftOurDaughters to smear Clinton as a warmonger inside the direct-message room “Fed Free Hate Chat” some 10 days before the election.
“It’s trending and normie liberal women are freaking out about it,” court papers quote one of the members saying.
As a grand jury has not yet indicted him, Mackey did not deliver a plea today on his charges of conspiracy against rights and election interference. He will await trial with travel restrictions, pre-trial supervision, mental health counseling, and random visits to his home and workplace to ensure compliance with court orders.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik David Paulsen had agreed on Jan. 29 to that package , which has now received a federal magistrate’s imprimatur.
[images via Twitter screengrab]
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