Photo Courtesy of U.S. Congress
U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries
By Michael V. Cusenza
A California man has been arrested for allegedly sending threatening text messages on Jan. 6 to family members of U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Queens and Brooklyn) and a city-based family member of a journalist, federal prosecutors recently announced.
Robert Lemke, 35, was arrested last week based on a criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court charging him with making threatening interstate communications.
According to the complaint, on Jan. 6, the same day that individuals purporting to protest the 2020 presidential election gathered in Washington, D.C. and stormed the Capitol Building, Lemke sent threatening text messages to one of Jeffries’s brother, citing the congressman’s statements about the results of the election. Lemke’s text messages, which included a picture of a home in the same neighborhood as the home of Jeffries’s brother, stated:
“Your brother is putting your entire family at risk with his lies and other words. We are armed and nearby your house. You had better have a word with him. We are not far from his either. Already spoke to [the congressman’s son] and know where his kids are.
. . . your words have consequences. Stop telling lies; Biden did not win, he will not be president. We are not white supremacists. Most of us are active/retired law enforcement or military. You are putting your family at risk. We have armed members near your home . . . . . Don’t risk their safety with your words and lies.”
Also on Jan. 6, 2021, Lemke allegedly sent threatening text messages to Jeffries’s sister-in-law, stating: “calm your husband down . . . . We saw on the hidden camera, he was quite stirred up. You need to have him talk to [the congressman].”
In addition, also on Jan. 6, Lemke allegedly sent threatening text messages to a relative of the journalist, stating: “[The journalist’s] words are putting you and your family at risk. We are nearby armed and ready. Thousands of us are active/retired law enforcement, military, etc. That’s how we do it.”
Prosecutors also pointed out that Lemke’s Facebook account has as its background image a photograph of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who were charged with criminal offenses last summer after they pointed firearms at Black Lives Matter demonstrators near their home in St. Louis, Missouri. On Nov. 7, 2020, Lemke posted to Facebook: “Folks. Be ready for war. Trump has refused to cede. Evidence shows fraud occurred and the Supreme Court cases will be successful. We blockchained and watermarked ballots in 16 states. Trump will prevail. Spread this message. . . . FAITH my fellow Republicans. Do not give up. Keep an eye out for a variety of protests, and Stop The Steal Facebook groups for updates.”
“The electoral process is the essential mechanism through which our democracy functions,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss. “While in any election it is inevitable that some will be disappointed in the result, threats of violence cannot and will not be tolerated.”
If convicted, Lemke faces up to five years in prison.