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Ohio man sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for threatening to kill Arizona’s top elections official

Ohio man sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for threatening to kill Arizona’s top elections official

An Ohio man who threatened to kill Arizona governor Katie Hobbs in 2022 has been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.

Joshua Russell, 44, was sentenced in federal court on Monday. He pleaded guilty to sending threatening messages to then-Arizona Secretary of State between 2 Aug 2022 and 15 November 2022.

At the time, Ms Hobbs was the state’s top election official and running for governor against Donald Trump ally Kari Lake.

Between August and the end of the 2022 midterm elections, Russell, of Bucyrus, Ohio, made several calls to the Arizona Secretary of State's office threatening to kill Ms Hobbs, say prosecutors.

He called her a traitor, warned her that a "war" was coming, claimed she was a communist, and insisted that she was committing election fraud.

“This message is for traitor [Ms Hobbs]. You’ve drug your feet, you’ve done nothing, to protect our election for 2020. You’re committing election fraud, you’re starting to do it again, from day one," Russell said in his first call, according to the Department of Justice. "You’re the enemy of the United States, you’re a traitor to this country, and you better put your sh[inaudible], your [expletive] affairs in order, ’cause your days [inaudible] are extremely numbered. America’s coming for you, and you will pay with your life, you communist [expletive] traitor [expletive].”

After Ms Hobbs defeated Ms Lake in the governor's race, Russell called again and again threatened to kill her after calling her a traitor and a criminal.

“This message is for communist, criminal, [Ms Hobbs]. We will not endure your crimes on America another day. You’ve been busted, over and over again. We will not wait for you to be drugged through court. A war is coming for you. The entire nation is coming for you. And we will stop, at no end, until you are in the ground," he said. "You’re a traitor to this nation. You’re a [expletive] piece of [expletive] communist, and you just signed your own death warrant. Get your affairs in order, cause, your days are very short.”

US District Judge Steven Logan praised Mr Russell for undergoing rehabilitation for substance abuse and for seeking therapy following his arrest but ultimately ruled that a prison term was still necessary after the threats he made against Ms Hobbs.

Mr Russell explained in a written document presented to the court that he had been a shut-in, obsessed with politics forums and discussions on social media. He told the court that he used the vitriol of the US’s political landscape as an outlet for his pent-up rage.

“All I did was hide in bed all day scrolling thru social media and political forums – looking at blogs or anything that could serve as an outlet for my pent up anger combined with all the pain I was suppressing,” he wrote.