AG: Right wing operatives get $100K bond in Detroit on voter intimidation case

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Detroit Magistrate Joseph Boyer set bond Thursday for conservative operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman at $100,000 in a voter intimidation case, even as the attorney general's office argued for a $1 million bond and Burkman's lawyer called the charges "a publicity stunt."

Wohl and Burkman on Thursday turned themselves in at the Detroit Detention Center. Assistant Attorney General Richard Cunningham said they "made a mockery of our system of government" and came with a camera crew and hundred dollar bills to pay the bond. 

The evidence will show there have been ongoing efforts by Burkman and Wohl to affect the upcoming election, Cunningham said, noting prosecution had witness testimony and email and phone records to support the charges. 

Jacob Wohl

"What we want is to get their attention and to hold something over their head that if they engage in this type of conduct in the future, in the next few weeks, they'll not only be subject to further criminal prosecution, but they'll lose a lot of money," he said. 

In addition to a $100,000 bond, Wohl and Burkman were prohibited from initiating any further robocalls or other mass communication to voters through Nov. 4. 

Wohl's probable cause conference was scheduled for Oct. 15 and his preliminary exam for Oct. 20. Burkman's probably cause conference was scheduled for Oct. 15 and his preliminary exam for Oct. 21. 

Scott Grabel, Burkman's attorney, called the charges a "political stunt" and criticized Attorney General Dana Nessel for going on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show after announcing the charges.

Grabel noted Wohl and Burkman have no criminal record and flew across the country during a pandemic to be present for the arraignment.

"The chance of conviction here in my opinion is zero, absolutely zero," the lawyer said. "It's involving a robocall which is protected speech."

Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl will be arraigned on charges including a count of intimidating voters, conspiracy to commit an election law felony, using a computer to commit an election law crime and using a computer to commit conspiracy. 

The first two counts are five-year felonies, while the computer-related charges are punishable by up to seven years in prison. 

Nessel announced the charges last week.

Wohl, 22, of California, told The Detroit News in August that he and Burkman were innocent of orchestrating the robocalls that told an estimated 11,000 to 12,000 Detroit voters mail-in voting would place their personal information into a public database that would be used by police. 

The recording claimed the effort was part of Project 1599, an initiative spearheaded by Wohl and Burkman to vet presidential candidates.

Boyer, in deciding bond for Wohl and Burkman, noted that the case presents "potential harm to one of the most fundamental elements of American society."

Wohl is a conservative social media personality and Burkman, 54, of Arlington, is a conservative operative. Both have made false accusations against Democratic candidates, including an incident last year when they allegedly pushed a Michigan college student to make false sexual assault claims against then-Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg. 

Nessel's office has said the estimated 11,000 voters reached in Michigan were part of a multi-state effort that included an estimated 85,000 calls.  

Wohl told The News he and Burkman were "not fans of mail-in voting," but "we've never done robocalls."

"People pull pranks all the time," he said. "We figure it's probably some internet prankster if we had to speculate, but, of course, it's too soon to know for sure."

Staff Writer Craig Mauger contributed