A Florida man known as a major media influencer was arraigned Wednesday on charges of violating the civil rights of voters by tricking them into casting invalid ballots in the 2016 presidential election.
Douglass Mackey, 31, of West Palm Beach, Florida, was released on $50,000 bond in federal District Court in Brooklyn. Magistrate Roanne Mann ordered Mackey to continue to undergo psychological counseling, not to contact anyone involved in the case except in the presence of his attorney, and to restrict his travel to only between Florida and New York City.
Mackey was not required to enter a plea to a complaint charging him with conspiracy to violate voting rights. The case is believed to be the first, or one of the first, in the country to involve suppression of votes by false online postings.
The targets of the campaign were not identified in the complaint, but sources said Mackey may have tricked as many as 5,000 minority supporters of Hillary Clinton to cast invalid ballots.
Mackey is charged in the complaint with being among a group that schemed to suppress votes of candidates they opposed, according to the complaint.
The other conspirators are not identified in the complaint, but sources have identified one of them as Anthime Tim Gionet, a far-right online personality who goes by the name "Baked Alaska."
Gionet himself was arrested in the aftermath of the breach of the Capitol during the riot Jan. 6 in Washington, and charged with violently entering and disorderly conduct on the grounds of the building.
Conviction of Mackey, who uses the online pseudonym Ricky Vaughn and used to live in Manhattan, could carry up to 10 years in prison.
In an instance, quoted in the complaint: "On November 1, 2016, Mackey tweeted an image of an African American woman standing in front of an ‘African Americans for [the Candidate]' sign" with a text that read: "Avoid the Line. Vote from home. Text ‘[Candidate’s first name]' to 59925. Vote for [the Candidate] and be a part of history. … Paid for by [Candidate] for President 2016."
Officials said that "at least 4,900 unique telephone numbers texted ‘[Candidate’s first name]’ or some derivative to the 59925 text number."
Mackey told an associate, in one online message, and in reference to the 2016 presidential election: "Obviously, we can win Pennsylvania. The key is to drive up turnout with non-college whites, and limit Black turnout," the complaint said.
Mackey established a Twitter account, under a false name, in 2016, according to officials. That account had 58,000 followers. The MIT Media Lab in a February 2016 analysis ranked Mackey as the 107th-most important influencer of the upcoming election, ahead of NBC News at 114, Stephen Colbert at 119 and Newt Gingrich at 141.