© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WEDH · WEDN · WEDW · WEDY · WNPR
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
ATSC 3.0 FAQ
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

They ran a voter suppression scheme. Now they're sentenced to register voters

Jacob Wohl, pictured here surrounded by police officers at a 2020 protest in Washington D.C., is one of two right-wing activists who were behind a 2020 robocall scheme that targeted minority voters. Wohl will now face probation, fines and 500 hours of voter registration assistance for pleading guilty to telecommunications fraud.
Michael M. Santiago
/
Getty Images
Jacob Wohl, pictured here surrounded by police officers at a 2020 protest in Washington D.C., is one of two right-wing activists who were behind a 2020 robocall scheme that targeted minority voters. Wohl will now face probation, fines and 500 hours of voter registration assistance for pleading guilty to telecommunications fraud.

Two far-right operatives who told tens of thousands of people not to vote by mail in a robocall scheme will now have to spend 500 hours registering people to vote thanks to a legal sentence from an Ohio judge.

Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman robocalled roughly 85,000 voters across Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio in the summer of 2020, falsely telling them that voting by mail would risk "giving your private information to the man."

Prosecutors say the pair were targeting neighborhoods known to have a high percentage of Black voters.

The robocaller, who claimed to be with a non-existent group called "the 1599 project," falsely said that voters' information would go into a database accessible to police, debt collectors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which would use the information to impose vaccine mandates. The caller cited no evidence to support these claims.

Wohl and Burkman, who initially said in an interview with CNNthat they weren't responsible for the calls, pleaded guilty to telecommunications fraud in Ohio in October.

On Tuesday, Ohio's Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court sentenced them to two years of probation, six months of monitoring with a GPS ankle bracelet, $2,500 each in fines and 500 hours of registering voters in Washington, D.C.

"These two individuals attempted to disrupt the foundation of our democracy," said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley, a Democrat.

Wohl expressed his "absolute regret and shame over all this," according to local media outlets who were present during the sentencing hearing.

Attorneys for Wohl and Burkman did not respond to NPR's requests for comment.

The robocall stunt was only one of several high-profile acts the two activists used to spread disinformation ahead of the presidential election.

Together, they tried and failed to frame Robert Mueller, Pete Buttigieg and Anthony Fauci of sexual assault allegations. They staged a phony FBI raid on Burkman's own house, successfully fooling The Washington Post into doing a story. They allegedly stole the phone of a White House liaison that Wohl was dating to tweet out false allegations from her account, then said she'd accused Wohl of kidnapping.

For their role in the robocalls, the duo is facing felony charges in Michigan, plus lawsuits from various civil rights groups and the state attorney general in New York.

The Federal Communications Commission is also considering fining the pair a record-breaking $5 million for making robocalls to cellphones without consent.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.

Related Content