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A Texas man was arrested Friday on federal charges of making threats to Georgia state officials in aftermath the 2020 election, including issuing a call to "exterminate" authorities who he called "lawless traitors."
The case against Chad Stark, 54, marks the first enforcement action brought by the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force, launched by Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in June.
Stark is set to make an initial appearance in court Friday afternoon in Austin.
“The Justice Department has a responsibility not only to protect the right to vote, but also to protect those who administer our voting systems from violence and illegal threats of violence,” Garland said in a statement. “The department’s Election Threats Task Force, working with partners across the country, will hold accountable those who violate federal law by using violence or threatening violence to target election workers fulfilling their public duties.”
The case against Stark emerged from about 850 threats referred to federal authorities, resulting in dozens of pending investigations, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite said Friday.
According to the Justice Department, Stark made his alleged threats public in a Jan. 5, 2021 Craigslist posting.
"Georgia Patriots it’s time for us to take back our state from these lawless treasonous traitors," Stark allegedly said in the post, adding that it was time to "put a bullet in the treasonous Chinese" official whose identity was was not disclosed by federal prosecutors.
"It’s our duty as American Patriots to put an end to the lives of these traitors and take back our country by force we can no longer wait on the corrupt law enforcement in the corrupt courts," the message said.
Stark, federal authorities said, singled out at least three state officials, who prosecutors referred to as Officials A, B and C.
"If we want our country back we have to exterminate these people," the message stated. "One good loyal Patriot deer hunter in camo and a rifle can send a very clear message to these corrupt governors.. milita up Georgia it’s time to spill blood..."
The message also went on warn local law enforcement officials, whom the suspect allegedly claimed had failed respond to undisclosed threats posed by Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist groups.
"Remember one thing local law enforcement the key word being local….. we will find you oathbreakers and we’re going to pay your family to visit your mom your dad your brothers and sisters your children your wife," the message stated. "We’re going to make examples of traitors to our country… death to you and all you communist friends."
Stark is charged with one count of communicating interstate threats. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted.
The message was posted a day before the assault on the Capitol in Washington and as then-President Donald Trump made false claims that the 2020 election had been stolen, taking aim at Georgia local election workers there.
Just three days before the message was posted, Trump pressured state officials to tilt the election results in Georgia to his favor. Earlier this week, the Fulton County District Attorney's Office in Atlanta requested a special grand jury to review allegations of election interference involving Trump.
Justice officials declined to comment Friday on what influence Trump may have had in prompting the wave of threats against government officials.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DOJ elections task force: Texas man threatened to 'exterminate' officials