On Wednesday, Douglass Mackey—who mainstream media outlets have characterized as a “far-right influencer”—was sentenced to seven months in federal prison for engaging in “election interference” by posting fake Hillary Clinton campaign advertisements on Twitter before the 2016 election.
Legal experts are decrying the Brooklyn, N.Y., court decision as an example of the “weaponization” of the Biden administration’s Justice Department, which has shown a pattern of targeting conservatives.
The DOJ’s prosecution of Mackey was centered on a tweet that he posted under the name “Ricky Vaughn” on Nov. 1, 2016, which was described as:
… an image depicting an African American woman standing in front of an “African Americans for Hillary” sign. The ad stated: “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home,” “Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925,” and “Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.” The fine print at the bottom of the deceptive image stated: “Must be 18 or older to vote. One vote per person. Must be a legal citizen of the United States. Voting by text not available in Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska or Hawaii. Paid for by Hillary For President 2016.” The tweet included the typed hashtag ‘#ImWithHer,’ a slogan frequently used by Hillary Clinton.
U.S. Attorney Breon Peace accused Mackey of a conspiracy to deprive potential voters of casting ballots in the 2016 election, stating that he “weaponized disinformation in a dangerous scheme to stop targeted groups, including black and brown people and women, from participating in our democracy.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office further claimed that “at least 4,900 unique telephone numbers texted ‘Hillary’ or some derivative to the 59925 text number.”
But as legal experts are pointing out, the prosecutors in the case never made it clear how those who had texted to the fake number had in some way been inhibited from actually casting a vote at a polling place, nor did they explain how those who had texted to the fake number would not have known that the tweet had in fact been posted by a satirical account named after a character in the film “Major League,” not by the Clinton campaign.
“[Mackey’s post was] a meme that’s clearly satire,” observed John Daukas, a former acting assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Department of Justice, on Friday’s edition of “Washington Watch.”
“It has someone with a MAGA hat who is advancing this meme.” In addition, he noted that “the government presented no evidence that any person was denied the right to vote or was taken in by this, that there were people who tried texting the line, but there was no evidence whatsoever that anyone failed to vote because of this meme.”
Daukas went on to point out that the law that the DOJ used to prosecute Mackey under was originally intended to go after members of the Ku Klux Klan. “The statute that was used is the federal civil rights conspiracy statute. It’s also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act … from 1871. And it was intended to protect former slaves who were trying to exercise civil rights, like being able to vote and other rights, and who were subject to lynching and beating and threats of that ilk. It certainly wasn’t intended to punish someone for posting a meme.”
Daukas further highlighted that the DOJ included protected political speech in its criminal complaint filed against Mackey. “[It] included allegations that he had said that if Hillary Clinton was elected, that she would get the U.S. involved in wars and have our daughters fighting in those wars, draft our daughters along with our sons, which seems like a purely political statement. But apparently, the Biden Justice Department thought that that was in some way criminal or wrong as well, which is very concerning to people who are concerned about free speech.”
Daukas also expressed concern that the DOJ appeared to intentionally select a jury in a politically liberal part of the country.
“The government brought this criminal trial in Brooklyn, which is a … heavily Democratic district,” he explained. “Their position is they can bring … criminal cases against people in any district where a meme was viewed. [But] in this case, none of the alleged conspirators lived in Brooklyn. None of the activities that they were alleged to have engaged in took place in Brooklyn. But the suit was brought there because the government apparently thought it could find a favorable jury.
“So, are we going to have Democrats dragging people from, say, Florida and indicting them in San Francisco because they think they’ve posted a meme and that’s a better place for the lawsuit? And Republicans doing the same to people who are from New York City trying them down in Texas? It’s kind of the worst form of forum shopping, of picking a location that’s very favorable to your case … and very unfavorable to a defendant.”
“[What is at stake in the Mackey case is] both free speech and the weaponization of the Justice Department,” Daukas said.
Mackey is expected to appeal last week’s court decision against him.
In the past two years, the DOJ has been embroiled in controversy over its apparent targeting of conservatives. In September 2022, a team of heavily armed FBI agents swarmed the house of pro-life advocate Mark Houck and arrested him in front of his wife and children, despite offering to turn himself in voluntarily months earlier over an alleged incident with a pro-abortion supporter in front of an abortion facility in 2021. Houck was later acquitted of any wrongdoing.
Then this past February, an internal memo was uncovered revealing that an FBI field office in Richmond, Virginia, set up a spy operation targeting traditional Catholic churches due to alleged “white supremacy views.” Attorney General Merrick Garland later disavowed the memo, but did not confirm whether anyone at the agency was fired for drafting or circulating it.
Originally published by WashingtonStand.com
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