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Man charged with sending threat to AZ Secretary of State's Office

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PHOENIX — The FBI arrested a Massachusetts man Friday on charges he made a bomb threat sent to the office of Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

The threat did not name her.

The indictment, made public Friday, charges that James W. Clark, 38, of Falmouth, sent a message on Feb. 14, 2021, to the website maintained by the elections division of Hobbs’ office.

“Your attorney general needs to resign by Tuesday Feb. 16 by 9 a.m. or the explosive device impacted in her personal space will be detonated,’’ the text said, according to the indictment. Arizona’s attorney general is Mark Brnovich.

The indictment says Clark used a web browser to search for the address of an “election official’’ who is not named in either the indictment or the accompanying news release. It says he searched for “how to kill’’ the election official.

The Department of Justice’s news release also says that Clark several days later made a separate web search for “FEMA Boston Marathon bombing’’ and a similar search adding the words “plan digital army.’’

Calls to the U.S. Attorney’s Office seeking clarification of who is the victim were not immediately returned.

But Murphy Hebert, Hobbs’ press aide, said the bomb threat on that date did involve Hobbs, and was one of many threats she has received.

Election Threats Task Force

Clark appeared in federal court in Boston on Friday.

According to the Justice Department, if Clark is convicted he faces a maximum penalty of up to 10 years for making the bomb threat, with separate five-year penalties for each of the counts of the bomb hoax and making threatening interstate communications.

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The department said the case is part of its Election Threats Task Force. Launched in June 2021, it is designed to address threats of violence against election workers.

“Illegal threats of violence put election officials and workers at risk and undermine the bedrock of our democracy: free and fair elections,’’ said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. in a prepared statement.

Gary Restaino, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, said in a statement that democracy requires his agency to support elected officials “and that we take seriously allegations of threats or violence against them.’’

Hobbs, in a prepared statement, thanked the FBI for investigating the incident. “Election officials across the country are being threatened regularly for doing their jobs,’’ she said.

“It’s unconscionable and undermines our democracy. This harassment won’t be tolerated and can’t be normalized.’’

DPS protection

Hobbs, a Democrat who is running for governor, began receiving protection from the state Department of Public Safety after fielding multiple death threats last year during the “audit’’ of the 2020 Maricopa County election conducted by the Arizona Senate. She opposed the audit, which Republican lawmakers ordered despite separate examinations of the ballots and voting equipment by Maricopa County.

Previous threats Hobbs received dated to right after the November 2020 general election. A group gathered outside her home and chanted slogans, including “We are watching you.’’

Hebert said the “I’m going to kill you’’ threats have tapered off this year. But she said Hobbs still gets threats that appear to be just on the side of what is legal, with messages like “Someone should kill you.’’

Hobbs is not the only one who has been threatened since the 2020 election. All five Maricopa County supervisors — four of whom are Republicans — also got threats after they did not initially respond to subpoenas issued by the Senate as part of the audit.

So did Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, who was the only Republican senator to vote against a failed attempt to hold the supervisors in contempt for not honoring the subpoenas.

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