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Indiana man gets 14 months after guilty plea to threatening Michigan election official in 2020

DETROIT (AP) — An Indiana man has been sentenced to 14 months in prison after pleading guilty to making a violent threat against a local election official in Michigan soon after the 2020 election.

A federal judge sentenced Andrew Nickels, 38, of Carmel, Indiana, on Tuesday for threatening to kill a suburban Detroit clerk, The Detroit News reported. He had pleaded guilty in February to transmitting threats in interstate commerce.

In a voicemail left on Nov. 10, 2020, Nickels threatened to kill Tina Barton, a Republican who at the time was the clerk in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Investigators said he accused her of fraud and said she deserved a “throat to the knife” for saying there were no irregularities in the 2020 election.

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Then-President Donald Trump had claimed there were election irregularities in Michigan and elsewhere following his 2020 loss to Democrat Joe Biden. Michigan Republican lawmakers investigated the 2020 presidential election for months and found no widespread or systemic fraud, concluding that Biden had won the state.

Barton said in a victim impact statement, “No one should have to live in fear for their life or endure the trauma that has been inflicted upon me — especially those dedicated to ensuring our elections are administered fairly and accurately.”

She is now vice chair of the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections, a national group. That group’s chair, former Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Paul Penzone, said Tuesday in a statement that Nickels’ sentence sends a “signal to election officials across the country that threats against them will be taken seriously and those who engage in such behavior will be held accountable.”

Prosecutors had sought a sentence of at least 24 months for Nickels, explaining a terrorism enhancement was warranted to exceed the sentencing range of 10 to 16 months calculated by the probation department.

Defense attorney Steven Scharg said a prison sentence was not warranted for his client. He said Nickels had no prior criminal history and at the time of the offense he was not taking his medications for mental health conditions diagnosed in 2008.

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