WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Friday charged a Texas man with publicly calling for the assassination of Georgia’s election officials on the day before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The case is the first brought by the department’s Election Threats Task Force, an agency created last summer to address threats against elections and election workers. Federal prosecutors accused the man, Chad Christopher Stark, 54, of Leander, Texas, of calling for “Georgia Patriots” to “put a bullet” in a Georgia election official the indictment refers to as Official A.
Mr. Stark, according to the three-page indictment, made the threat in a post on Craigslist, the online message board, while then-President Donald J. Trump and his allies were putting public pressure on Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state who certified Mr. Trump’s defeat in Georgia to Joseph R. Biden Jr.
“Georgia Patriots it’s time for us to take back our state from these Lawless treasonous traitors,” Mr. Stark wrote, according to the indictment. “It’s time to invoke our Second Amendment right 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.”
Mr. Stark was charged with one count of communicating interstate threats.
The Craigslist posting came at a moment of intense political pressure against election officials in battleground states. Mr. Trump had phoned Mr. Raffensperger on Jan. 2 last year and demanded that he “find” nearly 12,000 votes to overturn Mr. Biden’s victory in Georgia. The posting was published on Jan. 5, a day before a Trump-inspired crowd attacked the United States Capitol in an effort to block Congress from certifying Mr. Biden as the next president.
On Thursday, a district attorney in Atlanta asked a judge to convene a special grand jury to help a criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. If the investigation proceeds, legal experts say that the former president’s potential criminal exposure could include charges of racketeering or conspiracy to commit election fraud.
Mr. Raffensperger on Friday did not confirm if he was among the election officials targeted.
“I strongly condemn threats against election workers and those who volunteer in elections,” he said in a statement. “These are the people who make our democracy work.”
Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said on Friday that the task force is reviewing over 850 reports of threats to election officials and has opened dozens of criminal investigations.
During the 2020 election cycle and in its immediate aftermath, election workers “came under unprecedented verbal assault for doing nothing more than their jobs,” Mr. Polite told reporters Friday. “As the attorney general and deputy attorney general have both emphasized previously: We will not tolerate the intimidation of those who safeguard our electoral system.”
The task force, created last June by the deputy attorney general, Lisa O. Monaco, developed a system to log and track all reported threats to election workers and F.B.I. agents, and federal prosecutors were trained to take in, assess and investigate the allegations. Mr. Polite said the task force has prioritized finding ways to enhance security for state and local election workers.
The Texas case represents the task force’s first indictment and arrest. Mr. Polite declined to elaborate on what Mr. Stark may have planned to do.
“The communication here speaks for itself,” Mr. Polite said, referring to Mr. Stark’s Craigslist post, which offered $10,000 and called for “Patriots” to “exterminate these people.”
In addition to the two Georgia election officials, Mr. Stark’s Craigslist post also threatened a third Georgia official.
He wrote: “militia up Georgia it’s time to spill blood …. we need to pay a visit to [Official C] and her family as well and put a bullet her behind the ears.”
An aide to Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat who is running for governor, said he did not know if Ms. Abrams was Official C.
Threats against Georgia’s election officials continued well after the state finished counting and recounting the votes in its 2020 presidential contest. Two low-level workers whom Mr. Trump and his allies in the right-wing media falsely accused of counting fraudulent votes have sued the Gateway Pundit website, One America News Network and Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, for spreading lies about their conduct.
Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican, has faced substantial blame from Trump allies for certifying Mr. Biden’s victory. He faces a primary challenge this year from Representative Jody Hice of Georgia, who has adopted many of Mr. Trump’s false claims about the election.
Mr. Stark could not be reached for comment. His initial court appearance was in Austin, Texas, on Friday afternoon, and the judge appointed the federal public defender’s office to represent him. He was released on bond and his arraignment was set for Feb. 4 in Atlanta. Mr. Stark faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Katie Benner contributed reporting. Kirsten Noyes contributed research.