A pro-Trump Twitter troll who spread disinformation about how to vote in the 2016 election has been found guilty on Friday of Conspiracy Against Rights in federal court, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. And the verdict is already being denounced by prominent right-wing media figures.
Douglass Mackey, a 33-year-old who went by the name Ricky Vaughn on Twitter, distributed images on social media in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election that encouraged people to vote by text. It’s not possible to vote by text in the U.S., but at least 4,900 people tried to do just that.
“Avoid the Line. Vote from Home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925,” one of Mackey’s tweets read, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Mackey, along with other co-conspirators, produced many social media posts like this, including at least one in Spanish. The tweets often included the hashtag #ImWithHer, a popular slogan from Hillary Clinton supporters at the time.
Mackey was found guilty of Conspiracy Against Rights a federal offense that makes it a crime to “injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person” attempting to exercise a right found in the U.S. Constitution, including the right to vote.
The case received attention from many media figures on the far-right, including Tucker Carlson of Fox News, who argued that Mackey was clearly making a joke and that his posts were protected speech under the First Amendment. But after a one-week trial in Brooklyn, a federal jury clearly believed otherwise.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement after the ruling was announced.
“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.
Mackey, who lives in West Palm Beach, Florida, was an incredibly popular figure on Twitter in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, with roughly 58,000 followers.
Mackey faces up to 10 years in prison.