Robocall defendants say they issued corrective call; judge says that's 'insufficient'
Two conservative activists said Friday they had complied with a federal court order to issue a corrective robocall in a case of alleged election law violations, but the judge who issued the directive called their response "insufficient."
Attorneys for Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman sent a letter to Judge Victor Marrero of the U.S. Southern District of New York, saying the two men have hired a company to send out new messages to the people who received the original robocalls.
The initial calls, made in August, contained a recorded message telling recipients that if they voted absentee, their names and personal information could end up on a database that could be given to police, credit card companies and the Centers for Disease Control for mandatory vaccination.
Attorneys David M. Schwartz and Randy Kleinman said a company called DialMyCalls would issue the corrective calls to the recipients of the robocalls, which Michigan officials have characterized as aimed at intimidating Black voters.
In a filing Friday evening, Marrero wrote that the firm had placed calls to 29,117 recipients but that Wohl and Burkman had provided no documentation of who those recipients were or whether the message in the new call met his requirements. The judge noted that the pair had asserted their initial call had reached 85,309 numbers and made contact with 5,812 people or voicemail systems.
Marrero ordered Wednesday that the new calls must state: "At the direction of a United States district court, this call is intended to inform you that a federal court has found that the message you previously received regarding mail-in voting from Project 1599, a political organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, contained false information that has had the effect of intimidating voters, and thus interfering with the upcoming presidential election, in violation of federal voting-rights laws."
He gave the pair a deadline of 3 p.m. Saturday to "explain the discrepancy between the 29,117 recipients of today’s call and the 85,309 numbers previously called; comply with the recordkeeping provision of the October 28 Order; provide documentary evidence sufficient to show the contents of the message transmitted; and provide documentary evidence sufficient to demonstrate that the recipients of today’s call — that is, the Curative Message — were the recipients of the Prior Robocall."
Marrero's orders are part of a response to a lawsuit brought against Wohl and Burkman by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.
On Friday, the group's attorney sent a letter to Marrero saying the two men's testimony before him Monday that their robocall "was not targeted to Black individuals" appeared to "contradict" emails presented at a hearing Thursday in Detroit's 36th District Court.
The emails, identified by an investigator for the Michigan Attorney General's Office as between Wohl and Burkman, indicated the two men were targeting the calls at Black voters in cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia.
In an email between the two individuals, identified by state investigators as Wohl and Burkman, the robocall campaign appears racial: “... love these robo calls getting angry black call backs ..win or lose the black robo was a great jw idea.”
Wohl and Burkman are scheduled for an arraignment Nov. 12 in Wayne County Circuit Court, where they will be tried on multiple felonies, including voter intimidation and conspiracy to commit an election law violation, both of which carry five-year prison terms.