Conservative operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman aimed to avoid contempt of court charges Friday after missing a deadline to contact recipients of a misleading robocall about mail-in voting.
Attorneys defending Mr. Wohl and Mr. Burkman claimed in a court filing their clients had complied with a judge’s order requiring they notify roughly 30,000 recipients of the automated calls:
“At the direction of a United States district court, this call is intended to inform you that a federal court has found that the message you previously received regarding mail-in voting from Project 1599 contained false information that has had the effect of intimidating voters, and thus interfering with the upcoming presidential election, in violation of federal voting-rights laws.”
Mr. Wohl, 22, and Mr. Burkman, 54, are being sued in Manhattan federal court over the original call, which consisted of a recorded message of a woman making bogus claims about voting by mail.
They also face criminal charges over the calls in courts in Detroit, Michigan, and Cleveland, Ohio, where prosecutors allege they sought to intimidate voters in largely Black communities.
Both men had been ordered in the New York case to tell recipients of the original call the claims were false, and they were threatened with contempt for not proving compliance by Thursday night.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero ordered them again early Friday afternoon to prove within hours they had complied with the court order, and their attorneys followed through narrowly in time.
Mr. Wohl and Mr. Burkman hired a firm, DialMyCall, which in turn called “all recipients of the prior robocalls” with a court-approved message, their lawyers said in the Friday afternoon filing.
The filing was attached by an invoice that indicated the defendants hired the company to contact a total of 29,117 phone numbers to immediately start walking back the robocall with a new one.
However, while the original calls were made in the names of defendants and their group, Project 1599, Judge Marrero allowed the defense Friday to omit their names from the new message.
Mr. Wohl, of California, and Mr. Burkman, of Virginia, have teamed up several times in recent years to promote bogus claims and conspiracy theories often targeting Democratic politicians.
The original robocall in their name falsely claimed that mail-in ballots will be used to locate down people with outstanding warrants or debts, and “to track people for mandatory vaccines.”
Authorities began investigating the misleading robocalls in late August, and prosecutors in Michigan and then Ohio recently announced the criminal charges weeks apart this month.
The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation sued both men in the interim in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and recently obtained the order from Judge Marrero, a Clinton appointee.
Mr. Wohl and Mr. Burkman have pleaded not guilty to all charges they face in Michigan and Ohio, which includes various counts of voter intimidation, fraud, and other charges related to the calls.
The civil suit alleges both men violated the Voting Rights Act and Ku Klux Klan Act. Judge Marrero recently granted a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs blocking the defendants from making any similar calls until after Election Day.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said in a separate filing Friday that emails between Mr. Wohl and Mr. Burkman show they specifically targeted “Black neighborhoods” with the misleading robocalls and discussed wanting to “hijack” the election.