The Justice Department announced Friday that a jury convicted Florida man and social media “troll” 33-year-old Douglass Mackey over internet memes posted during the 2016 presidential election.
Legal experts raised concerns about the trial of the 33-year-old Mackey, who posted under the alias “Ricky Vaughn 99” earlier this year on First Amendment grounds.
The Department of Justice indicted Mackey in January 2021, claiming he conspired “to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person … in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution.”
“Between September 2016 and November 2016, Mackey conspired with other influential Twitter users and with members of private online groups to use social media platforms, including Twitter, to disseminate fraudulent messages that encouraged supporters of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to ‘vote’ via text message or social media which, in reality, was legally invalid,” the United States Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York said in a release.
Mackey faces up to 10 years in prison.
“Mackey has been found guilty by a jury of his peers of attempting to deprive individuals from exercising their sacred right to vote for the candidate of their choice in the 2016 Presidential Election,” United States Attorney Breon Peace said in the release.
“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,” Peace continued.
GOP Lawmaker Calls Top Cop To Step Down
In March 2023, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, called for America’s top law enforcement official to resign or be impeached for the alleged persecution of the Trump-loving meme-maker Mackey.
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In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Georgia Republican ripped the Biden appointee for his department’s treatment of Douglass Mackey, a Florida resident known on Twitter as Ricky Vaughn.
The lawmaker demanded that Garland step down or be impeached, arguing that the Mackey’s case represents another example of President Joe Biden’s administration going after its political opponents.
Mackey reportedly created a meme in 2016 that encouraged people to vote by text or on social media, and roughly 4,900 gullible voters did just that. One prosecutor referred to Mackey’s meme as “nothing short of vote theft.”
“There is no place in public discourse for lies and misinformation to defraud citizens of their right to vote,” Seth DuCharme, the then-acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
“With Mackey’s arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of Internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes. They will be investigated, caught, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
There is no word yet on whether the Biden administration will round up everyone who claimed Donald Trump was a Kremlin agent or collaborator.
Greene said she wanted to share her “profound dismay” with Garland about what constitutes the pursuit of justice at his agency.
She noted Mackey is charged in part with an 1870 federal law that applied to the Ku Klux Klan’s attempts to intimidate black Americans into not voting.
She wrote that the charge against Mackey “is not only laughable but also a clear indication that the DOJ does not have a sound grasp on how to interpret the law.”
“First of all, it is an affront to African Americans lynched and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan that the DOJ is equating their treatment at the hands of racist terrorists to a Florida man posting memes on Twitter. That the DOJ thinks these two things are commensurate should be concerning to anyone.”
She continued, “The law Mr. Mackey is accused of violating is clearly intended to criminalize physical violence and intimidation used to prevent people from exercising their rights as outlined in the Constitution, not for the sharing of memes on social media. Mr. Mackey caused no one physical harm, did not threaten or intimidate anyone and certainly did not kill anyone.”
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“The question then is whether the DOJ is deliberately contorting this statute to apply to the free speech exercise by individuals with dissenting political views. All the evidence points to this being the case,” Greene added.
“Unfortunately, these tactics are nothing new for the DOJ since your appointment as Attorney General,” added Greene, who pointed to the zealous prosecution of many accused of involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
She argued many of those defendants were simply “exercising their constitutional right to freedom of assembly.”
Mackey, she wrote, “was not involved in any sort of riot or protest, but rather he simply posted funny images on social media that the DOJ did not like.”
“It seems the DOJ is intent on criminalizing ‘disinformation,’ a legally undefined term, in order to squash freedom of speech. These Soviet-style methods of enforcing the law seem better suited for the governments of China or Iran, not the United States of America,” Greene maintained.
“There is no evidence that Mr. Mackey’s meme posting prevented anyone from voting in the 2016 US Presidential Election and there are no individuals claiming that it did. This case is simply the DOJ, on behalf of its puppeteers in the White House, versus Douglass Mackey a.k.a @theRickyVaughn. This flagrant assault on free speech and political participation is utterly un-American, undemocratic, and incredibly dangerous.”
“I call on you, as Attorney General, to order the charges against Douglas Mackey to be dropped by the DOJ and to immediately thereafter resign as Attorney General of the United States before your gross incompetence and twisted sense of justice further deteriorates the rights enumerated in and protected by the Constitution and destroys the lives of more Americans,” she concluded.
In a Twitter post that accompanied her letter, Greene added, “The political prosecution of Douglass Mackey should terrify every single American. His ‘crime?’ Meme-posting. … Mr. Mackey’s charges must be dropped and Merrick Garland should resign or be impeached.”
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