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Man sentenced to prison for threatening life of former Michigan clerk 

Man sentenced to prison for threatening life of former Michigan clerk 

By Michigan Advance

July 11, 2024

BY JON KING, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—An Indiana man who threatened to kill then-Rochester Hills Clerk Tina Barton, a Republican, days after the 2020 election has been sentenced to federal prison.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Laurie Michelson ordered 38-year-old Andrew Nickels of Carmel, Ind., to 14 months in prison following his guilty plea earlier this year to one count of making a threatening interstate communication, which carries a maximum five-year penalty.

According to court documents, on or about Nov. 10, 2020, Nickels called Barton’s office and left a voicemail saying she deserved a “throat to the knife,” for her statements concerning the integrity of the election results, which were being openly attacked by former President Donald Trump and his allies with false claims of mass fraud. Trump lost the state to Joe Biden by more than 154,000 votes.

“[Y]ou frauded out America of a real election,” Nickels was reported to have said, who then told Barton, “You’re gonna pay for it,” and described how “10 million plus patriots will surround you when you least expect it … [and] … kill you.” Nickels then threatened Barton’s family and concluded by saying, “You deserve a [expletive] throat to the knife. … Watch your [expletive] back. … Watch your [expletive] back.”

US Attorney Dawn Ison for the Eastern District of Michigan said the threats made against Barton “undermine our democracy by making elections workers fearful for their lives and for the safety of their families—just for doing their jobs,” adding that the sentence should send a clear message that those who seek to “jeopardize the fair and free administration of our elections with threats of violence will be vigorously prosecuted and held accountable.”

Barton posted to social media following the sentencing, saying while more than 1,300 days had passed since Nickels threatened her life and the lives of her family, his words were “forever seared” into her memory.

“The cold, calculated tone of his voice, and the vile, despicable, and sexualized language he used to degrade and debase me are something that I hear in my head almost daily. His threat to end my life when I least expected it, robbed me of my sense of security, my peace of mind,” said Barton. “There is a resilience within me that refuses to be extinguished. I refuse to let the words of this man define me, to let his twisted fantasies of violence and domination dictate the course of my life.”

Barton now serves as a vice chair of the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections (CSSE), a national organization of “cross-partisan experts in election administration and law enforcement who aim to support policies and practices that protect election workers and voters from violence, threats and intimidation.”

CSSE Chair Paul Penzone, a former Maricopa County, Ariz. sheriff, issued a statement Tuesday calling the sentencing of Nickels a signal that threats against election officials would be taken seriously and those perpetrating them would be held accountable.

“Death threats like the ones Tina faced are never acceptable, and they endanger not only the public servants who administer our elections, but also democracy itself. Accountability and the rule of law matter, and we hope this sentencing helps deter others from threatening, harassing, or intimidating election officials,” said Penzone. “Tina has shown immense courage and grace throughout the legal process, drawing from her own experience to help shield other election officials from what she has experienced. In her role with CSSE, she builds relationships between election officials and law enforcement, develops resources, and facilitates dozens of tabletop exercises (TTXs) around the country. I am honored to work alongside her.”

The Detroit News quoted Nickels defense attorney Steve Scharg as saying his client suffered from mental illness.

“I wish we had more treatments available for helping people with mental health issues,” Scharg said in February when Nickels entered his plea.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland also issued a statement, saying the Justice Department “has no tolerance for violent threats against election workers, officials, and volunteers, and as this case demonstrates, we will aggressively investigate and prosecute such threats to the fullest extent of the law.”

Barton noted that threats against election officials were an “assault on the democratic principles that form the backbone of our society” and the message for those like Nickels was “a strong one – if you threaten the life of an election official, you will be held accountable and the price will be high.”

“My faith in God gives me strength every day. The love of my family and friends has and will continue to sustain me. My commitment to this country, and serving the citizens who live here, is deeper than ever. My resolve is intact,” Barton said.

READ MORE: Federal funds to help Michiganders land jobs after prison

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license. 

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CATEGORIES: CRIME AND SAFETY
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