A pair of right-wing provocateurs were sentenced Tuesday to spend 500 hours registering voters after they pleaded guilty to telecommunications fraud in connection with robocalls made before the 2020 election.
Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were also sentenced to two years of probation and 12 hours a day of electronic monitoring for six months, according to prosecutors in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.
“These two individuals attempted to disrupt the foundation of our democracy," County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said in a statement. "Their sentence of two years’ probation and 500 hours of community work service at a voter registration drive is appropriate.”
Wohl and Burkman were charged with telecommunications fraud and bribery, accused of trying to intimidate voters with false robocalls about mail-in voting. The robocalls, which officials said went to thousands of voters in several states before the election, falsely claimed that mail-in voting would put voters into a database that would be used to collect outstanding debt, track down warrants or enforce mandatory vaccinations.
Burkman, of Arlington, Virginia, and Wohl, of Irvine, California, have been accused of trying to influence 85,000 voters in urban areas across the country with the robocalls, which included misinformation about mail-in voting, in Ohio, Illinois, New York, California, Pennsylvania and other states. Prosecutors said more than 8,100 robocalls went to phone numbers of residents in Cleveland and East Cleveland alone.
Wohl and Burkman identified themselves on the calls and admitted under oath that they created them, but they denied they did anything illegal, insisting the calls were exercise of free speech rights and not designed to intimidate, threaten or suppress voting.
Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James sought $2.7 million in penalties over robocalls allegedly aimed at suppressing the Black vote ahead of the 2020 election. James at the time said Wohl and Burkman “used misinformation to try to disenfranchise Black communities ahead of the election, in a clear attempt to sway the election in the favor of their preferred presidential candidate.” A settlement was announced this year. The Federal Communications Commission also proposed a $5.1 million fine.
Burkman and Wohl gained attention for several unsuccessful schemes to attack opponents of former President Donald Trump with false accusations of sexual misconduct and other criminal activity. Some of their failed smear campaigns targeted Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, as well as former special counsel Robert Mueller.