A federal court in Manhattan this week sentenced a man to three years in prison for sending threatening messages to a journalist’s family.
Robert Lemke, 36, of the San Francisco, California area, previously pleaded guilty to one count of threatening interstate communications.
Prosecutors told the court that threatening text and audio messages were sent to about 50 people between November 2020 and early January.
Lemke declined to accept the results of the 2020 US presidential election, US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
,[Lemke] sent threatening messages to dozens of victims, including journalists, elected officials and their families, for the alleged crime of telling facts,” Williams said.
“Instead of attempting to effect change through the legitimate forms of expression we all Americans still enjoy, Lemke sought to suppress freedom of expression, intimidate others with threats of violence, and instill fear, The attorney said.
At least one message was sent to a New York journalist during the January 6 attack on the US Capitol in Washington.
Message read: “[The journalist’s] Words are putting you and your family in danger. We are close, armed and ready.”
Julia Gatto, a lawyer representing Lemke, said in court documents that her client had a history of mental illness and drinking problems, but no history of violence, the new York Times Reported.
Lemke was “incensed by incendiary rhetoric” and “consumed with the narrative that the election was stolen from Donald Trump,” Gatto wrote.
According to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Lemke used at least three phone numbers and various electronic accounts in an attempt to hide his identity.
Prosecutors did not identify those targeted by Lemke. But after Monday’s decision, CNN’s chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, said he and fellow news anchor Don Lemon were among those targeted.
In an article published on CNN’s website, Trusted Source host, Stelter described receiving text messages in November 2020.
“One text included a photo of my father’s grave site. Another text describes my mother’s house, implying that he was there,” Stelter said.
Stelter said his colleague Lemon had told the court that he feared for his and his partner’s safety, with some messages saying the news anchor may have been kidnapped.
Stelter wrote that he agreed to testify at trial, “in the hope that this case will send a message against widespread harassment of journalists.”
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the conviction and sentence “serve as a significant acknowledgment from the American justice system that threatening messages have a chilling effect on public discourse.”
“Lemke’s case is a striking example of how law enforcement can set real consequences for those who violently threaten journalists. We urge US officials to continue to take such threats seriously.” Let’s do it,” CPJ’s US and Canada program coordinator Katherine Jacobsen said in a statement.
Some information for this report has been obtained from The Associated Press.