Tuesday 5 December 2023

Douglas Mackey’s Meme-Related Prison Sentence Halted By Federal Court

 A federal court on Monday halted the prison sentence for Douglas Mackey, who was convicted earlier this year of election interference for posting memes that mocked Hillary Clinton voters to cast their ballot via text during the 2016 presidential election.

Mackey was accused of a “scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote” after a Twitter account he ran under the handle “Ricky Vaughn” posted memes in the lead-up to the election. In October, Judge Ann M. Donnelly of Federal District Court in Brooklyn sentenced Mackey to 7 months in prison, a $15,000 fine, and two years probation.

However, Judge Omar Williams of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reportedly overruled the appellate court in granting a motion for bond pending appeal, according to Mackey.

“This ruling is huge because it means that the appeals court decided that my appeal presents ‘substantial’ and ‘debatable’ issues of law that, if resolved in my favor, will result in my conviction being vacated,” Mackey said on X. “The prosecution, on the other hand, argued that my appeal was frivolous and that this was a typical election crime case like any other in U.S. history. This is a very encouraging step towards vindication.”

Mackey was charged one week after President Joe Biden assumed office and roughly four years after the 2016 election. The Justice Department claimed that Mackey had conspired to “injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate” people from exercising their right to vote. Prosecutors said that he and others had “intended variously to provoke, mislead, and, in some cases, deceive voters in the 2016 presidential election” with their posts.

The Justice Department said that Mackey had worked with other influential Twitter users between September 2016 and November 2016 to “disseminate fraudulent messages” which persuaded voters for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to cast their ballots via phone or social media.

One image showed a black woman standing in front of an “African Americans for Hillary” sign and said, “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home,” and “Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925.”

According to the government, some 4,900 people texted the number, but it’s unclear how many people, if anyone, fell for the meme and did not cast the vote they intended to cast; or were merely participating in the joke.

Hillary Clinton reportedly celebrated the arrest, saying Mackey’s meme went “from what you would consider free speech … to running a very deliberate effort to mislead people about where and how to vote. So it went from speech to action meant to subvert the election because thousands of people who they targeted through their algorithms, ‘oh I could text my vote for Hillary Clinton.'”

Mackey said if he loses the appeal in the Second Circuit, he intends to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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