Influencer Sentenced After Posting Misleading Voting Information

A man who went by the alias Ricky Vaughn on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter will spend seven months behind bars for his role in trying to suppress Democratic voter turnout during the presidential election in 2016.

On Wednesday, Douglass Mackey – a far-right social media influencer – received that sentence for his actions in spreading misinformation on Twitter.

In March, he was convicted of one count of conspiracy against rights in Brooklyn federal court.
In the case, prosecutors argued that Mackey conspired with other people from September 2016 through November 2016 to post incorrect messages that people who supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton could cast a vote for her via social media post or text message. At the time, Mackey had 58,000 followers on Twitter.

In one example, Mackey posted a photo on Twitter that showed a woman `standing in front of a sign that read “African Americans for Hillary.” The tweet that he sent that accompanied the photo read:
“Avoid the Line. Vote from Home. Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925.”

In a statement, Breon Peace, a U.S. Attorney, said Mackey “weaponized disinformation in a dangerous scheme to stop targeted groups, including black and brown people and women, from participating in our democracy.”

Andrew Frisch, who represented Mackey as his attorney, had written a memo to the judge asked for his client to not have to spend any time in prison. The lawyer said Mackey had started psychotherapy sessions back in 2018 because he wanted to change and become better.

He added that Mackey “is not Ricky Vaughn of seven years ago.”

The judge in the case, Ann Donnelly, was not convinced, though, and denied Frisch’s request.
Before she had issued the sentence, Donnelly said that Mackey was “one of the leading members” of a conspiracy that was “nothing short of an assault on our democracy.”

Following the sentencing announcement, Peace issued a statement saying Mackey’s prosecution was “groundbreaking.” He said that the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York would continue to litigate any “crimes that threaten our democracy.”

As Peace said in the statement:

“One of the foundational rights we hold as Americans, a right that many fought so hard to obtain, is the right to vote.”

A statement that Peace released following Mackey’s conviction back in March said that the verdict proved that the false message Mackey had posted about the 2016 presidential election “crossed a line into criminality.”

He added that the conviction “flatly rejects his cynical attempt to use the constitutional right of free speech as a shield for his scheme to subvert the ballot box and suppress the vote.”

Mackey is 34 years old and is from West Palm Beach, Florida.

When he was convicted, Mackey was facing as many as 10 years behind bars.

Frisch said on Thursday that his client will appeal the ruling.