A to Z

After criticizing the ‘audit,’ Stephen Richer received death threats. A Missouri man is now facing federal charges.

By: - August 17, 2022 12:22 pm

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer questions election officials during a Jan. 5, 2022, hearing at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Maricopa County Elections Department officials were responding to claims about the 2020 General Election made by Senate contractors Cyber Ninjas, Cyfir, and EchoMail. Photo by Michael Chow | Arizona Republic/pool photo

A Missouri man was indicted Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Justice for threatening to kill Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer because he opposed the Arizona Senate’s partisan election review, leaving a voicemail on the Republican’s cell phone telling him that “other people from other states are watching your ass.”

“So, I see you’re for fair and competent elections, that’s what it says here on your homepage for your recorder position you’re trying to fly here. But you call things unhinged and insane lies when there’s a forensic audit going on,” federal prosecutors say Walter Lee Hoornstra said in the May 19, 2021, voicemail. “You need to check yourself. You need to do your f***ing job right because other people from other states are watching your ass. You f***ing renege on this deal or give them any more troubles, your ass will never make it to your next little board meeting.”

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

Hoornstra, 50, of Tecumseh, Mo., has been charged with one count of communicating an interstate threat and one count of making a threatening telephone call. The first charge carries penalties of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; the second is two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Richer told the Arizona Mirror that the voicemail — and dozens more like it — were left on his cell phone after the Twitter account for the Senate’s so-called “audit” falsely accused county elections officials of deleting electronic files. The baseless claim was amplified by former President Donald Trump on May 15, 2021.

Richer said at the time that the claim from Senate contractors and by other Trump allies peddling his Big Lie that he didn’t actually lose the 2020 election had resulted in many calls accusing him of illegal conduct. 

In a commentary he wrote for CNN, Richer called the claim “laughably inaccurate” and noted that “audit” leaders conceded the files weren’t deleted only days later.  

He told the Mirror on Wednesday that Senate President Karen Fann bears responsibility for feeding the Big Lie, embarking on a thoroughly flawed election review run by unqualified people who helped create Trump’s false election narrative and then abdicating her responsibility to oversee the “audit.”

“This voice message and every other one I received in mid-May is 100% Karen Fann’s doing,” Richer said. “She authorized morons (to run the ‘audit’), exercised zero oversight and absolved herself of any responsibility.”

Fann declined the Mirror‘s requests to respond to Richer.

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.

MORE FROM AUTHOR