DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court agreed to take an appeal from two conservative political activists who were charged with crimes for robocalls that tried to discourage Black Detroit voters from mailing their ballots in the 2020 election.
The court said Wednesday it wants to focus on whether a state law used against Jack Burkman of Arlington, Virginia, and Jacob Wohl of Irvine, California, is unconstitutional.
Burkman and Wohl were charged with attempting to “deter or interrupt electors,” a felony. The calls falsely warned Detroit residents that if they voted by mail they could be subjected to arrest, debt collection and forced vaccination.
Investigators said similar 30-second automated phone calls were made in New York state, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois. Burkman and Wohl last week pleaded guilty to telecommunications fraud in Ohio.
In Michigan, the Court of Appeals in June upheld a lower court decision that would send Burkman and Wohl to trial.
Critics might find the calls shameful, but that doesn’t mean they were criminal, defense lawyers said, pointing to the First Amendment, among other arguments.
“The robocall was not menacing, which requires a threat of physical assault,” the lawyers told the Michigan Supreme Court, citing the 1954 law.