New York Attorney General Announces Settlement With 2020 Robocall Perpetrators 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Right-wing conspiracy theorists who launched a robocall scheme targeting Black voters during the 2020 election could have to pay up to $1.25 million for their wrongdoing, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced today. 

This announcement comes after a federal judge found last year that Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were liable for targeting and intimidating Black voters across five states ahead of the 2020 election. Last year, the judge ruled that the duo’s robocall violated both state and federal laws.

In October 2020, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and several voters filed a lawsuit against the pair — who both pleaded guilty to telecommunications fraud in Ohio and are facing criminal prosecution in Michigan — as well as their right-wing political organization and Burkman’s lobbying firm. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants violated state and federal law by launching a robocall campaign that lied about mail-in voting to intimidate voters.  

The robocall at issue in the case stated: “Did you know that if you vote by mail your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used for credit card companies to collect outstanding debts?” To further intimidate Black voters who may be hesitant towards vaccines, the message continued: “The [Center for Disease Control] is even pushing to use records for mail-in voting to track people for mandatory vaccines.” 

The plaintiffs argued that the robocalls targeted areas with a high population of Black voters in Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania with high populations of Black voters in violation of Section 11(b) of the VRA and the Ku Klux Klan Act, which prohibit voter intimidation.

In 2021, the New York attorney general’s office intervened in the case, alleging that 5,500 New Yorkers were targeted through the robocalls in violation of federal and state law. Ultimately, the judge determined that the defendants’ scheme “was intimidating, threatening, or coercive towards voters, especially Black voters, by warning of several specific and foreboding consequences of voting by mail.” Based on the evidence presented in the case, the judge found that “the Robocall was a calculated attempt to deter Black voters by exploiting fears and stereotypes, and not merely the expression of an opinion.” 

Today, a week before a jury trial on remedies was scheduled to begin, the parties entered a proposed consent decree, which will require the robocall perpetrators to pay $393,000. If the duo fails to make payments, they could pay up to $1.25 million. 

In a press release earlier today, James said of the agreement:  “Wohl and Burkman orchestrated a depraved and disinformation-ridden campaign to intimidate Black voters in an attempt to sway the election in favor of their preferred candidate. Now they will pay up to $1.25 million to my office, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and the individuals who were harmed by their scheme. My office will always defend the right to vote.”

Read the proposed consent decree here.

Learn more about the case here.