Douglass Mackey, who went by the alias Ricky Vaughn on social media, was convicted by a federal jury on Friday for a “scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote,” according to a statement from the Justice Department.
Mackey was charged one week after President Joe Biden assumed office and roughly four years after his purported offenses. The Justice Department claimed that Mackey had conspired to “injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate” people from exercising their right to vote.
“Mackey has been found guilty by a jury of his peers of attempting to deprive individuals from exercising their sacred right to vote for the candidate of their choice in the 2016 Presidential Election,” United States Attorney Breon Peace remarked in the statement. “Today’s verdict proves that the defendant’s fraudulent actions crossed a line into criminality and flatly rejects his cynical attempt to use the constitutional right of free speech as a shield for his scheme to subvert the ballot box and suppress the vote.”
James Lawrence, an attorney for Mackey, previously said in an interview with The Daily Wire that his memes were satirical and were therefore not relevant to the law he purportedly violated. Mackey could serve as many as 10 years in prison after he is sentenced.
The Justice Department said that Mackey had worked with other influential Twitter users between September 2016 and November 2016 to “disseminate fraudulent messages” which persuaded voters for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to cast their ballots via phone or social media. One image depicted a black woman standing in front of an “African Americans for Hillary” sign and said “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home,” “Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925.”
Some 4,900 unique telephone numbers texted the hotline, according to the Justice Department, although it was unclear how many were participating in the joke rather than trying to cast their ballots. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey suspended Mackey from the platform.
“One of the arguments is that the conduct of the issue does not fall within the scope of the statute as it’s written,” Lawrence told The Daily Wire. “I mean, this is a statute that was passed after the Civil War as part of the reconstruction process in the south to guarantee the rights of freed slaves to vote without fear of intimidation.”
Some contended that Mackey’s right to free speech had been violated in a politically motivated case by the Biden administration. “It’s a three-fer: the prosecutorial creation of a crime Congress has not prescribed, the trivialization of civil-rights law, and the intrusion of government as a monitor of political speech,” former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy wrote in an opinion piece for National Review.
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