James W. Clark, 38, of Falmouth made his first appearance in Boston federal court Friday, the Justice Department said. The Cape Cod resident was charged with one count of making a bomb threat, one count of perpetrating a bomb hoax and one count of communicating an interstate threat. If convicted, Clark could face as many as 20 years in prison.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who’s running for governor, confirmed through a spokesperson Friday that she was the target of the bomb threat.
According to the indictment, filed under seal in Arizona federal court Tuesday but made public Friday, Clark used the secretary of state's online contact form to send a threat he did not intend to carry out.
Though it was one of many threats Hobbs received in the wake of the 2020 election, in which President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona, it was the only bomb threat she received, according to her spokesperson, Murphy Hebert.
“Election officials across the country are being threatened regularly for doing their jobs,” Hobbs said in a statement. “It’s unconscionable and undermines our democracy. This harassment won’t be tolerated and can’t be normalized. We thank the FBI for their persistence on further investigating this incident.”
Former President Donald Trump has falsely claimed his 2020 loss was the result of widespread election fraud. A number of GOP officials in Arizona have amplified Trump's claims, at one point conducting a partisan review of ballots, as election officials have faced threats.
“Illegal threats of violence put election officials and workers at risk and undermine the bedrock of our democracy: free and fair elections,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in a statement Friday. “Our Election Threats Task Force, working with partners across the nation, will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute illegal threats like these to hold accountable those who threaten our democracy.”
The Justice Department last year formed a task force to address threats of violence against election workers. A recent case included a guilty plea from a Nebraska man who admitted he posted threatening messages about an election official in Colorado.
Clark's indictment does not say how authorities determined he was the alleged author of the Feb. 14, 2021, threat to Hobbs.
It wasn't clear if the defendant has retained counsel. The federal public defenders' offices in Boston and Arizona didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Prosecutors alleged in the indictment that Clark searched online for “how to kill” an official and for information related to the Boston Marathon bombing.
As described by prosecutors, the alleged threat was a hoax, but such communication would nonetheless run afoul of multiple criminal statutes.
“Throughout Arizona, we are fortunate to have highly professional state, county and local officials who administer elections in a fair and impartial manner,” U.S. Attorney for Arizona Gary M. Restaino said in a statement from prosecutors. “Democracy requires that we support those officials, and that we take seriously allegations of threats or violence against them.”