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Texas man faces federal charges for allegedly threatening Georgia election officials

In this Dec. 14, 2020, file photo, a voter fills out paperwork before casting a ballot the first day of early voting for the Senate runoff election in Atlanta.

A Texas man was arrested early Friday and charged with threatening to kill Georgia election officials.

FBI agents took Chad Christopher Stark into custody early Friday in Leander, Texas. He was indicted in the Northern District of Georgia on one count of making interstate threats.

The case is the first brought by the Justice Department's election threats task force, which was set up last summer to counter the growing number of threats nationwide directed at election officials and administrators.

According to the indictment, Stark, 54, posted a message on Craigslist on Jan. 5, 2021, with the title "Georgia Patriots it's time to kill [Official A] the Chinese agent - $10,000."

In the message, the text of which is included in the indictment, Stark says it's time to take back Georgia from what he calls "Lawless treasonous traitors."

He also writes it's time to "put a bullet in the treasonous Chinese [Official A]. Then we work our way down to [Official B] the local and federal corrupt judges."

Stark goes on to say, according to the indictment, that "we need to pay a visit to [Official C] and her family as well and put a bullet her behind the ears."

He also takes aim at local law enforcement officers who have, he says, enforced mask mandates and closed American businesses while allowing Black Lives Matter and anti-fascists to destroy the country.

According to the indictment, Stark threatens to track down those officers' families, and says: "we're going to make examples of traitors to our country. . . death to you and your communist friends."

While the case against Stark is the task force's first in its six months of work, it is unlikely to be the last. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite told reporters the task force has received more than 850 reports of threats targeting election workers, and that there are currently dozens of active investigations.

The rise in threats comes amid a broader challenge to democratic elections in the U.S. as former President Donald Trump continues to push false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Georgia, which flipped Democrat in the 2020 vote to help hand President Biden the election, became a focal point for Trump and his supporters. Trump himself even pressured Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to take action to overturn Trump's election loss in the state.

But officials say the concerning spike in threats is not limited geographically; rather, it is a problem that affects the entire country.

It's a problem that Attorney General Merrick Garland has repeatedly expressed concern about, and vowed to counter.

In a statement Friday, Garland said the department "has a responsibility not only to protect the right to vote, but also to protect those who administer our voting systems from violence and illegal threats of violence."

But Garland has also warned of a broader trend of threats against public servants, including school officials, lawmakers, journalists, judges and police.

In a speech marking the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Garland said this rising tide of threats puts the country at grave risk.

"They are permeating so many parts of our national life that they risk becoming normalized and routine if we do not stop them," he said. "That is dangerous for people's safety. And it is deeply dangerous for our democracy."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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