Man Who Threatened to Kill Arizona Official Over Election Gets 2½ Years in Prison


An Ohio man who threatened to kill Katie Hobbs in 2022 when she was secretary of state in Arizona and running to be governor was sentenced Monday to two and a half years in prison, prosecutors announced.

The man, Joshua Russell, 46, of Ohio, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Arizona in August to one count of making an interstate threat, according to the Justice Department. He was indicted in December 2022 on charges that he had left several voice messages containing death threats with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office during the midterm election season, in which Ms. Hobbs was elected governor.

Ms. Hobbs, a Democrat, was secretary of state in Arizona and was the state’s top election official when Joe Biden’s 2020 victory there was certified. She was not named in court documents, but a letter filed in court last week on Mr. Russell’s behalf was addressed to her.

In the letter, Mr. Russell apologized to Ms. Hobbs and said that he was being treated for anger and drug and alcohol abuse, which he cited as a factor in making the threats.

“Social media and news reports (that I didn’t know if they were true or false) became another addiction for me, and only fueled my depression, anxiety and anger,” Mr. Russell wrote.

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday night, and Mr. Russell’s public defenders could not immediately be reached.

Mr. Russell’s sentence was a result of the Justice Department’s broader effort to prosecute people who threatened and intimidated election officials in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.

Fueled by conspiracy theories and lies peddled by former President Donald J. Trump claiming that fraud had lost him the election, poll workers and election officials experienced a surge in threats.

Ms. Hobbs has said that she received thousands of threats for certifying the state’s voting results in that election. One man pleaded guilty last year to threatening Ms. Hobbs with a bomb in 2021 and was later sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Mr. Russell threatened Ms. Hobbs in 2022 during a midterm election season that ended with Ms. Hobbs’s winning the governor’s race over her Republican opponent, Kari Lake.

In one message left on the day of the state’s primary in August 2022, Mr. Russell called Ms. Hobbs a communist and accused her of having committed fraud in the 2020 election by certifying Mr. Biden’s victory.

“You’re an enemy of the United States — you’re a traitor to this country,” Mr. Russell said in the expletive laden message, adding, “America’s coming for you, and you will pay with your life.” The next month, he left another message threatening to kill her if the upcoming midterm election results didn’t result in her prosecution.

Finally, on Nov. 17, 2022, the day after The Associated Press called the governor’s race for Ms. Hobbs, Mr. Russell left another message saying that she had just signed her own “death warrant.”

By the end of the 2022, investigators had tracked the messages to a phone in Bucyrus, Ohio, belonging to Mr. Russell. Investigators found that a phone number used by Mr. Russell listed “” as a recovery email address, according to a statement of probable cause that an F.B.I. agent, Nathaniel D. Gena, filed inside a complaint.

In a statement on Monday, Merrick B. Garland, the U.S. attorney general, reaffirmed his agency’s commitment to taking on similar cases.

“If you threaten violence against the public servants who administer our elections, there will be consequences,” Garland said.

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