Audrey Strauss, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Dermot Shea, the Commissioner of the Police Department for the City of New York (“NYPD”), announced that ROBERT LEMKE was arrested today based on a criminal Complaint filed in Manhattan federal court charging LEMKE with making threatening interstate communications. LEMKE allegedly sent threatening text messages on January 6, 2021 to family members of a New York City-based U.S. Congressman (the “Congressman”) and a New York City-based family member of a journalist (the “Journalist”). LEMKE was arrested in Bay Point, California, and will be presented tomorrow in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As alleged, Robert Lemke was dissatisfied with the results of the 2020 Presidential Election and subsequent statements about the election made by a U.S. Congressman and journalist. Rather than peaceably disagree, Lemke allegedly threatened to harm those individuals’ families, demanding they retract their statements. The electoral process is the essential mechanism through which our democracy functions. While in any election it is inevitable that some will be disappointed in the result, threats of violence cannot and will not be tolerated.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Lemke’s alleged threats, aimed at the family members of a sitting U.S. Representative and a journalist, crossed a bright line. The FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force is always on watch, and we act with speed to stop violence – whether the threat comes from within our borders or from outside them. That’s how we do it. As always, it is the partnership with our communities that makes us most effective. If you have any additional information that could benefit this case, or are aware of an active threat, we urge you to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said: “To those individuals and groups that would seek to threaten a United States Congressman, this arrest should serve as a warning that the NYPD and its law enforcement partners, will ensure you are held accountable for your actions. I want to commend the FBI Agents, NYPD Detectives, and representatives of 54 other agencies that make up the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the investigation that led to this arrest.”
As alleged in the Complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court:
On January 6, 2021, the same day that individuals purporting to protest the 2020 Presidential Election gathered in Washington, D.C. and stormed the Capitol Building, ROBERT LEMKE sent threatening text messages to the brother of the New York City-based Congressman, citing the Congressman’s statements about the results of the 2020 Presidential Election. LEMKE’s text messages, which included a picture of a home in the same neighborhood as the home of the Congressman’s brother, stated:
Your brother is putting your entire family at risk with his lies and other words. We are armed and nearby your house. You had better have a word with him. We are not far from his either. Already spoke to [the Congressman’s son] and know where his kids are.
. . . your words have consequences. Stop telling lies; Biden did not win, he will not be president. We are not white supremacists. Most of us are active/retired law enforcement or military. You are putting your family at risk. We have armed members near your home . . . . . Don’t risk their safety with your words and lies.
Also on January 6, 2021, LEMKE sent threatening text messages to the Congressman’s sister-in-law, stating: “calm your husband down . . . . We saw on the hidden camera, he was quite stirred up. You need to have him talk to [the Congressman].”
In addition, also on January 6, 2021, LEMKE sent threatening text messages to a relative of the Journalist, stating: “[The Journalist’s] words are putting you and your family at risk. We are nearby armed and ready. Thousands of us are active/retired law enforcement, military, etc. That’s how we do it.”
LEMKE’s Facebook account has as its background image a photograph of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who were charged with criminal offenses last summer after they pointed firearms at Black Lives Matter demonstrators near their home in St. Louis, Missouri. On November 7, 2020, LEMKE posted to Facebook: “Folks. Be ready for war. Trump has refused to cede. Evidence shows fraud occurred and the Supreme Court cases will be successful. We blockchained and watermarked ballots in 16 states. Trump will prevail. Spread this message. . . . FAITH my fellow Republicans. Do not give up. Keep an eye out for a variety of protests, and Stop The Steal Facebook groups for updates.”
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ROBERT LEMKE, 35, of Bay Point, California, is charged with making threatening interstate communications, which carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment. The maximum potential penalty is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.
Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of investigators and analysts from the FBI, the NYPD, and over 50 other federal, state, and local agencies, and the FBI’s San Francisco Field Office. Ms. Strauss also thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California for its assistance.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Jacob H. Gutwillig, Matthew J. Laroche, Kimberly J. Ravener, Benjamin W. Schrier, and Kyle A. Wirshba are in charge of the prosecution.
The charge contained in the Complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described herein should be treated as an allegation.