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Two conservative operatives charged with trying to suppress votes in Detroit

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Thursday filed criminal charges against two conservative political operatives she alleges are behind a robocall aimed at suppressing the vote in Detroit and other areas with large African-American populations.

Jack Burkman, 54 and of Virginia, and Jacob Wohl, 22 of California, are accused of voter intimidation, conspiracy to violate election law and using a computer to commit crimes. Each is a felony punishable by up to five or seven years in prison and fines.

Wohl previously denied involvement in the robocall, in which a narrator says both he and Burkman’s names before warning voters that casting a ballot by mail will put their personal information into a “public database that will be used by police departments to track down old ones and be used for credit card companies to collect outstanding debts.”

The robocall falsely claimed that voter information could be used to “track people for mandatory vaccines” and warned residents to “be wary of vote by mail.”

Calls went to nearly 12,000 residents with Detroit’s 313 area code, according to Nessel’s office, which worked with attorneys general in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio where similar robocalls were reported in urban areas. It’s believed about 85,00 calls were placed nationally. 

“This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election,” Nessel said in a statement. 

Bridge Magazine was unable to reach Burkman or Wohl. 

Wohl previously told The Detroit News he and Burkman “have never done robocalls” and were not involved. "We figure it's probably some internet prankster if we had to speculate, but, of course, it's too soon to know for sure,” he said in August.

Nessel’s office declined to disclose any evidence they have directly linking Wohl and Burkman to the calls. That “will come out in court,” spokesperson Ryan Jarvi told Bridge. Felony complaints filed against Burkman and Wohl only list their alleged crimes. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson praised the “swift and thorough investigation” by Nessel,  a fellow Democrat, vowing they will “use every tool at our disposal to dispel false rhetoric and seek justice on behalf of every voter who is targeted and harmed by any attempt to suppress their vote.” 

Wohl and Burkman are national operatives but have dabbled in Michigan before. Last year, a Ferris State University student claimed the duo pressured him into making a false sexual assault accusation against Democrat Pete Buttigieg, who was running for president at the time.

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