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Man sentenced to prison for tweeting to suppress votes for Trump

United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn.

RuaridhConnellan | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

A Trump-supporting social media influencer was sentenced to seven months in prison for conspiring to suppress the votes of possibly thousands of people who supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Douglass Mackey, who was 33 when he was convicted in March, was also ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. Mackey, who was known to his 58,000 Twitter followers as Ricky Vaughn, conspired to spread fraudulent messages and advertisements aimed at Black and female voters.

Shortly ahead of the 2016 elections, those Twitter advertisements told voters that they could avoid lines at voting booths by texting “Hillary” to a five-digit phone number. Voting by text does not exist in the United States.

At trial, the prosecution observed that Mackey had a “long, established history of believing black people are confused and stupid,” and believed that “women shouldn’t vote.” Mackey made podcast appearances and social media posts about those beliefs, prosecutors said.

In the days preceding Election Day and on the day itself, at least 4,900 phone numbers texted “‘Hillary’ or some derivative,” prosecutors said in a press release, “which had been used in multiple deceptive campaign images that Mackey and his co-conspirators tweet.”

It was not immediately clear if anyone failed to vote as a result of Mackey’s scheme. Prosecutors said that 99% of the texts received by that number were sent after Mackey first posted a deceptive Hillary advertisement from one of his social media accounts.

Andrew Frisch, Mackey’s attorney, told CNBC he remained “optimistic” about Mackey’s prospects on appeal, which has not yet been taken up.

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