64-Year-Old Man Given 2.5 Years For Threats To Maricopa Official, Former AG

64-Year-Old Man Given 2.5 Years For Threats To Maricopa Official, Former AG

By Corinne Murdock |

On Monday, a federal judge sentenced 64-year-old Mark Rissi to 2.5 years in prison for threats made to a Maricopa County election official and the former attorney general.

Rissi, an Iowa native, issued two separate threats in late 2021 to Maricopa County Board of Supervisors member Clint Hickman and former Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Rissi pleaded guilty to two counts of sending a threatening interstate communication. 

Rissi told Hickman in a September 2021 voicemail that he would “lynch” him, and that he was going to die by hanging; months later, Rissi told Brnovich in a December 2021 voicemail that he would hang him as well. Rissi made it clear in both voicemails that he was dissatisfied by how both men were responding to allegations of the theft of the 2020 election from former President Donald Trump.

The DOJ arrested Rissi last October. 

Rissi testified that he made the threats while under the influence of sleeping and pain medications he’d taken to mitigate his depression over his mother’s death, which he blamed on the COVID-19 vaccine, and the influence of misinformation regarding the elections process in Arizona. Rissi asked for forgiveness.

Arizona District Judge Dominic Lanza, a Trump appointee and longtime Federalist Society member, handed down Rissi’s sentence. Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys Tanya Senanayake and Sean Lokey prosecuted the case, representing Hickman and Brnovich. 

Senanayake has been with the DOJ since 2020 and, prior to that, served as a Federal Election Commission attorney for five years. In 2022, Lokey was named Arizona’s district election officer to oversee election day complaints of voting rights concerns, threats, and fraud.

In remarks to the judge, Senanayake said Rissi’s speech represented “threats to democracy.” Senanayake asked for 24 months in prison.

In a statement presented to the court by Senanayake, Brnovich asked for Rissi to be held accountable. 

Hickman claimed in an interview with the “Mike Broomhead Show” on KTAR News that he petitioned for a lesser sentence for Rissi. Hickman also claimed that Lanza said he needed to make an example of Rissi.

“I gave the judge the ability to offer mercy and compassion for a guy that should not be spending maybe some of his last years on this earth in a jail cell,” said Hickman. “And I asked for compassion and mercy. The judge heard that and then the judge said, ‘Listen, we have to prove a point. This is the judicial system and punishment needs to be meted out.’”

In a press release, DOJ Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri warned that threats to election officials will be met with significant punishment. 

“This sentence makes clear that individuals who illegally threaten election officials and others associated with the electoral process will face meaningful penalties,” said Argentieri. “The Justice Department will diligently investigate and prosecute attempts to illegally threaten, intimidate, and coerce the individuals administering the nation’s free and fair elections.”

Rissi’s case was one of the many under investigation by the DOJ’s Election Threats Task Force. According to a meeting from one year ago, the DOJ was investigating around over 100 cases out of over 1,000 they reviewed. 

The DOJ launched the task force in July 2021 under Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. 

Monaco served as Homeland Security Advisor, Associate Deputy Attorney General, and Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division under former President Barack Obama.

Monaco has worked in the upper ranks of every Democratic presidential administration since former President Bill Clinton. Monaco has served as a research coordinator for the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired at the time by now-President Joe Biden, working on the Violence Against Women Act; legal intern for the White House Counsel’s Office and then counsel to former Attorney General Janet Reno under former President Bill Clinton.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

DOJ Arrests Iowa Man For Threatening Maricopa County Supervisor

DOJ Arrests Iowa Man For Threatening Maricopa County Supervisor

By Corinne Murdock |

On Thursday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) arrested an Iowa man for allegedly threatening Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman.

64-year old Mark Rissi reportedly told Hickman in a voicemail last September that he was going to lynch and hang him for being a “lying commie” for supporting the results of the 2020 election. Rissi also issued a similar threat to Hickman via a voicemail left with Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office in December. 

“When we come to lynch your stupid lying Commie [expletive], you’ll remember that you lied on the [expletive] Bible, you piece of [expletive],” said the voicemail. “You’re gonna die, you piece of [expletive]. We’re going to hang you. We’re going to hang you.”

Although the DOJ press release announcing Rissi’s arrest didn’t identify Hickman as the subject of Rissi’s alleged threats, Hickman spoke out in a press release of his own to thank the DOJ and FBI. However, Hickman said that the DOJ’s actions weren’t enough because there were many other threats made to him, fellow supervisors, Recorder Stephen Richer, and numerous county elections staff. 

Hickman also chided Arizonans “in positions of power [and] leadership [and] influence” for being silent. 

“I’m speaking out today in hopes that others will follow. Whether it’s a person who shares your politics or your worldview or not, no one should be subjected to this kind of hatred,” stated Hickman. “And if we truly want to keep our country great, we will do everything we can to denounce threats against election workers and combat the disinformation that imperils our democracy.”

Maricopa County took another step to counter election disinformation recently. They launched a disinformation center and limited press access last week to control the narrative and manage the flow of information.

So far, the FBI has taken action against those who issued threats to elected officials critical of the 2020 election audit and claims of fraud. They haven’t made arrests for those threats made to Republican officials supportive of the audit, such as death threats given to Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) and State Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale). 

In August, the FBI charged a Missouri man for threatening Richer. In July, they arrested a Massachusetts man for threatening Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. 

This latest arrest comes two days after the DOJ briefed 300 election officials and workers on available grant funding for physical election security enhancements, some of which may come from the American Rescue Plan; among those in attendance were election officials and their representatives from Arizona. The DOJ also updated the election officials on their Election Threats Task Force. 

That task force, which launched last June, has reviewed over 1,000 contacts reported as hostile or harassing by the election community. The task force reported that only 11 percent of those contacts warranted an investigation. It’s unclear whether the threats faced by those such as Fann and Ugenti-Rita met the DOJ’s threshold. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story listed the arrested man as being from Illinois. The man is from Iowa, and the story has been corrected.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.