By Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A social media influencer who once had 58,000 Twitter followers was convicted by a federal jury of election interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential race over a voter suppression scheme, the Justice Department said late on Friday.
Douglass Mackey, also known as “Ricky Vaughn,” was convicted of the charge of conspiracy against rights stemming from his scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote, the Justice Department said in a statement. Mackey faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
In 2016, Mackey, 33, established an audience on Twitter with 58,000 followers. A February 2016 analysis by the MIT Media Lab ranked Mackey as the 107th most important influencer of the then-upcoming presidential election in which Republican former President Donald Trump defeated Democrat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Mackey, a Trump supporter, had been charged in 2021 by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, who said he conspired with others to disseminate disinformation on social media and urged people to cast their ballots through invalid means such as text messages.
In one tweet for example, he had featured a picture of an African American woman standing in front of a sign for an unnamed candidate. Next to the image, it said: "Avoid the line. Vote from home."
"Today's verdict proves that the defendant's fraudulent actions crossed a line into criminality and flatly rejects his cynical attempt to use the constitutional right of free speech as a shield for his scheme to subvert the ballot box and suppress the vote," United States Attorney Breon Peace said.
Mackey's lawyer, Andrew Frisch, suggested his client would appeal.
"This case presents an unusual array of appellate issues that are exceptionally strong," Frisch was quoted as saying by the New York Times, adding: "I'm confident about the way forward."
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, Vaughn has in the past openly supported hate groups.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington, Editing by Franklin Paul)