The names and addresses of the Fulton County grand jurors who indicted former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants for election-related crimes in Georgia have been posted online, resulting in threats against them.
Local and state police have been joined by the FBI in investigating malicious online actors who had exposed the names and addresses of those citizens that concluded crimes were committed as well as anyone who made actual threats.
Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat’s office said that investigators are working to trace the origin of the threats after the names of grand jury members and other personal information were posted online.
“We take this matter very seriously and are coordinating with our law enforcement partners to respond quickly to any credible threat and to ensure the safety of those individuals who carried out their civic duty,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “Our investigators are working closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to track down the origin of threats in Fulton County and other jurisdictions.”
An FBI spokesperson said the federal agency is looking into the case.
On a far-right website, where the QAnon conspiracy theory originated, an anonymous user on Tuesday published a list of the 23 grand jurors and three alternates, including images and their full names, ages and addresses on various fringe websites, some with ties to violent right-wing conspiracy theories.
Under state law, the identities of Georgia jurors are not secret. In fact, the names of the Fulton County jurors are identified on Page 9 of the 98-page indictment that criminally charges the former president and 18 others, but the list placed online was something unusual.
Amid a torrent of other posts speculating on the race and religion of the jurors, and rife with derogatory slurs, the implication was clear: This was a target list.
A spokesperson for the FBI Atlanta office said that the agency is “aware of threats of violence” against Fulton County officials and that it is working with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office to investigate — but declined to identify specific targets or whether anyone has acted on those threats.
“It is our policy not to discuss details of ongoing investigations,” the FBI statement said. “However, each and every potential threat brought to our attention is taken seriously. Individuals found responsible for making threats in violation of state and/or federal laws will be prosecuted.”
The FBI statement indicated growing concern about the safety of grand jurors involved in Trump’s indictment after the names, home addresses, photos and social media profiles of some members of the panel circulated online along with threatening messages targeting them and the Fulton County District Attorney’s office prosecuting the case.
In Georgia — unlike in federal cases, for example — it is standard practice to list the names of grand jurors in indictments but given the high-profile nature of this case and an increasing appetite among Americans for political violence, some are wondering whether more might have been done to safeguard jurors’ privacy.
“I don’t know what the jurors knew before going into this,” said Sara Aniano, disinformation analyst at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “If they were briefed on the risks, then maybe that’s all that could have been done.”
“It doesn’t take all that much to get that information into the wrong hands, especially if they know where to go,” she said. “And it doesn’t take many wrong hands to lead to harassment or potentially violence.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has said she does not care about status or identity when it comes to prosecuting suspected criminals.
“Mr. Trump, like every American, has a First Amendment right to free speech, but that right is not absolute. In a criminal case such as this one, the defendant’s free speech is subject to the rules,” said US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who addressed concerns that the former president could release evidence on social media and cautioned that “arguably ambiguous statements” could be construed as intimidation or harassment of potential witnesses.
“I will take whatever measures are necessary to safeguard the integrity of the case,” said Chutkan, who is overseeing Trump’s federal election interference case, another one of the four criminal indictments filed against the disgraced 2020 election loser, who also faces state charges in New York for his hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels and federal charges linked to accusations he mishandled classified government documents at his Florida estate.
“He is a criminal defendant. He is going to have restrictions like every single other defendant. This case is proceeding in the normal order,” Chutkan said. “The fact the defendant is engaged in a political campaign is not going to allow him any greater or lesser latitude than any defendant in a criminal case.”
According to Media Matters, on some of the websites that reported the jurors’ personal details, unnamed users “issued direct threats”, with one calling the information a “hit list”.
The American Bar Association (ABA) issued a statement condemning the disclosure of private and personal data of members of the grand jury, saying it was “against the law to harass, stalk and threaten” grand jurors.
Chad Stark, a resident of Leander, Texas, was the first criminal arrested by a Department of Justice (DOJ) unit established to bolster election security, after he posted a message to Craigslist that called on “Georgia Patriots” to kill government officials, offering an apparent bounty of $10,000.
James W. Clark, 38, of Falmouth, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty Friday, August 11, 2023 to sending a bomb threat to an election official in the Arizona Secretary of State’s office on or about Feb. 14, 2021.
Andrew Nickels, 37, of Carmel, Indiana was hauled before the federal district court in Detroit that same day for allegedly sending a threatening communication to an election worker in Michigan.
Mark A. Rissi, 64, of Hiawatha, Iowa, pleaded guilty Thursday, April 13, 2023 for sending threats to an election official on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and to an official at the Office of the Arizona Attorney General.
To report suspected threats or violent acts, contact your local FBI office and request to speak with the Election Crimes Coordinator. Contact information for every FBI field office may be found here: www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/. You may also contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or file an online complaint at www.tips.fbi.gov. Complaints submitted will be reviewed by the task force and referred for investigation or response accordingly. If someone is in imminent danger or risk of harm, contact 911 or your local police immediately.