A pro-Trump Twitter influencer who stands accused of conspiring to disenfranchise citizens in the 2016 presidential election has appeared for trial in federal court.
Douglass Mackey, 33, known online as ‘Ricky Vaughn’, is on trial for his tweets encouraging Hillary Clinton supporters to cast meaningless votes via text message, rather than cast an actual vote.
After the first day of trial on Monday, Mackey was seen leaving Brooklyn federal courthouse dressed in a navy suit, white shirt and pink polka dot tie, with his father walking beside him.
During his opening remarks, Mackey’s attorney, Andrew Frisch, argued that his memes encouraging Clinton supporters to “vote from home” via text message were simply “trash talking online” in hopes of gaining viral fame. .
‘Mister. Mackey didn’t share the memes as some kind of grand scheme,” Frisch told the jury, according to the New York Daily Newsarguing that the idea of voting by text was patently ridiculous to anyone with a basic understanding of US elections.
Douglass Mackey, 33, known online as ‘Ricky Vaughn’, is on trial for his tweets encouraging Hillary Clinton supporters to cast meaningless votes by text message.
After opening arguments Monday, Mackey (right) was seen leaving Brooklyn federal courthouse with his father walking beside him.
Frisch insisted that his client had simply been ‘posting’, an Internet term for making provocative satirical posts intended to shock and annoy online enemies.
According to a criminal complaint, Mackey and anonymous co-conspirators created a series of images that purported to be Clinton campaign ads, with messages such as “Keep the line.” Vote from home. Text “Hillary” to 59925.’
The fake campaign ads also included fine print and falsely claimed they were “paid for by Hillary for the 2016 presidency.”
The phone number in the fake ads received at least 4,900 text message responses with variations of Clinton’s name, including some from people in New York, prosecutors said.
‘It was not about changing votes. It was about vaporizing votes, making them disappear,” Assistant US Attorney Turner Buford said during opening remarks.
“The number was real and was configured to receive incoming messages,” he argued. “The release of these fake campaign ads was timed to flood the internet before Election Day.”
The prosecution plans to call a total of 19 people to the stand before the defense presents its case.
According to a criminal complaint, Mackey and unnamed co-conspirators created a series of images purporting to be Clinton campaign ads, including the one above.
Mackey had numerous Twitter accounts and was repeatedly suspended by the social media company.
During his opening remarks, Mackey’s attorney argued that his memes encouraging Clinton supporters to “vote from home” via text message were simply “online garbage.”
Mackey, 33, known online as ‘Ricky Vaughn’, is on trial for his tweets encouraging Hillary Clinton supporters to cast meaningless votes by text message.
Among the state’s witnesses is an alleged co-conspirator who set up Mackey and will testify for the government, appearing in court identified only by his online pseudonym ‘MicroChip’.
The prosecution began calling several witnesses Monday, including Jessica Morales, Clinton’s 2016 director of digital organizing.
She testified that the ‘vote by text’ tweets were very concerning to the campaign and asked if he saw them as a joke, he said: ‘No, it’s not a joke.’ Not for me. It is not a parody.
‘It’s a very clever graph. It is designed to look like it came out of the campaign… This is designed to look like what we did,” he said.
Judge Ann Donnelly is presiding over the case following a last-minute shakeup, after the intended trial judge, Nicholas Garaufis, tested positive for COVID on Sunday morning.
At the time of the alleged fraud, Mackey had 58,000 followers on Twitter and was considered a “major influencer” in the election, which Donald Trump won, prosecutors said.
He had described himself as an “American nationalist” who regularly retweeted Trump and promoted conspiracy theories about voter fraud by Democrats.
Mackey’s online screen name, Ricky Vaughn, is taken from the character played by Charlie Sheen in the Major League film series.
The criminal complaint identifies two Twitter accounts associated with Mackey that were suspended in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election due to the alleged spread of misinformation about the election.
Mackey had been known as Ricky Vaughn on social media, based on Charlie Sheen’s character in ‘Major League,’ which he used as his Twitter avatar (right)
The complaint accused Mackey of working with four anonymous co-conspirators to spread disinformation that people could vote for Clinton by posting a specific hashtag on Twitter or Facebook, or by texting Clinton’s name to a text code. fake.
One tweet he sent featured a photo of a black woman holding a Clinton campaign sign, encouraging people to “skip the line” and “vote from home,” it said.
Prosecutors say Mackey and his co-conspirators masterminded their election meme campaigns in Twitter DM group chats with names like Fed Free Hatechat and War Room.
Mackey is charged with one count of conspiracy to harm, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege guaranteed to him by the Constitution, namely, the right to vote.
If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison.