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'You need to check yourself': Missouri man charged with threatening to kill County Recorder Stephen Richer

Voicemail was left on Richer's personal phone during Republican election review. Case marks second time in a month that charges filed in threat to Arizona official

PHOENIX — Editor's note: The above video aired during a previous broadcast.

A Missouri man has been charged with threatening to kill Stephen Richer, one of Maricopa County's top election officials after Richer criticized last year's Republican-orchestrated review of the 2020 election.

It marks the second time in less than a month that federal prosecutors have filed charges alleging a death threat against an Arizona elections official. 

In late July, a Massachusetts man was charged with threatening to blow up Arizona's top election official, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, if she didn't resign.

The two Arizona cases are the latest criminal charges stemming from a nationwide epidemic of threats against election workers that has forced many out of the field.

Vulgar message on personal phone

In the Richer case, the federal indictment against 50-year-old Walter Lee Hoornstra, of Tecumseh., Mo., alleges he left this expletive-filled voicemail on Richer's personal cellphone in May 2021:

"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.

"You need to check yourself. You need to do your (expletive) job right because other people from other states are watching your (expletive). 

"You (expletive) renege on this deal or give them any more troubles, your (expletive) will never make it to your next little board meeting."

If he's convicted, Hoornstra would face up to seven years in prison.

RELATED: 'Time to end this': Maricopa County's blistering letter urges Arizona Republicans to call off audit

Richer blames Fann for threats

"Plenty more where that came from," Richer said in a text message Wednesday. 

Richer, who is a Republican, told the Arizona Mirror that he blamed the threats he had received on Republican Senate President Karen Fann, who authorized the partisan election review.. 

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

Fann hasn't responded.

More than 1,000 messages reviewed

The U.S. Justice Department says it has investigated more than 1,000 harassing and threatening messages to election workers. About 100 could result in charges.

"I hope it's something that continues, and that local prosecutors and local law enforcement take these threats seriously," said Chris Harvey, who was Georgia elections director for six years, through the contentious 2020 presidential election. 

"The DOJ isn't going to be able to handle every threatening message," said Harvey, now a member of the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections. 

The bipartisan committee brings together elections and law-enforcement experts to help protect elections workers and voters from violence.

"It's going to be the local police and sheriffs and prosecutors that are going to have to deal with a lot of these threats," Harvey said. 

A spokeswoman for Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell said Mitchell had talked to Richer: 

"The county attorney relayed her commitment to working with law enforcement so that the investigation and prosecution of any acts that constitute criminal activity are handled appropriately." 

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office did not respond to a request for comment. Brnovich's office has its own Election Integrity Unit.

First death threat for former cop

Harvey recalled a death threat when he was Georgia's elections director. 

It came the day before the state's high-stakes U.S. Senate runoff election in early January 2021, two months after President Donald Trump's election defeat in Georgia:

"An email came to me that said that they had taken some time off for the holidays. They hoped I enjoyed them, but  should say goodbye to my family every time I left home, because I wouldn't come back one day."

Harvey, a former police officer, had never received a death threat before. 

"I was never formally threatened, even while working homicide, involving some seriously dangerous people," he said.

"It took working in elections to get a formal death threat against me."

RELATED: Man accused of making bomb threat at Arizona Secretary of State's Office

RELATED: Karen Fann's records subpoenaed by FBI for probe into 2020 election

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