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May 29, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Seattle man pleads guilty to scheme to intimidate Florida voters

A Seattle man who sent scores of bogus letters questioning the citizenship status of Florida voters pleaded guilty today to one count of voter intimidation and one count of identification fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

James Webb Baker Jr., 58, of Seattle, admitted that he intended the letters to look as if they were written by county elections officials in Florida in an effort to intimidate the recipients and interfere with their right to vote, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Baker faces up to six years in prison and more than $350,000 in fines.

According to a plea agreement filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Tampa, Fla., Baker sent about 200 letters a month before the 2012 presidential election to prominent Florida Republicans, the Miami Herald reported.

Around October 2012, Baker had read online articles about efforts by Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner to remove people from the official county lists of eligible voters, according to the Herald. The stories reported that county officials were identifying registered voters whose eligibility was questioned, then sending them letters informing them they may be ineligible to vote.

Baker believed this was being done to suppress voter turnout, according to the plea agreement, the Herald reported.

“(Baker) believed that the efforts of (Scott) and (Detzner) were targeted at Hispanic voters who would likely vote for candidates of the Democratic Party,” the plea agreement stated. “(Baker) believed that some of the recipients of such letters would not vote, and this belief angered him.”

So Baker created “copycat” letters of the ones that were sent by county officials. He sent 200 of these letters to Republican Party donors in Florida, according to the Herald.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the letters looked almost identical to official county Supervisor of Elections letters, and included the county official’s name, letterhead, address and contact information.

During the plea proceedings, Baker admitted to making several changes to the original official letters in order to stress the threats that the recipients would lose their right to vote and/or be imprisoned if they did not first document their citizenship and right to vote in person to the registrar, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, voter intimidation

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