Did SPLC 'Journalist' Interfere in 'Election Interference' Meme Case?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

This might come as a revelation: Twitter, even after Elon Musk’s takeover, is a dumpster fire of stupidity.

One cannot scroll through the platform without seeing tweets that are so factually inaccurate that they require disclaimers from Twitter. And those are just Joe Biden’s tweets. Yes, as president of the United States of America, our president can — and does — lie. He has spent his entire public life lying about his life and public positions. Most recently, Biden claimed the SVB failure was Trump’s fault. In reality, Biden and his chums in Congress fire-hosed money into the economy, causing hyperinflation. The Fed reacted and hiked interest rates at unheard-of increases, making low-interest US Treasury bonds less than worthless — a toxic liability. SBV had lots of worthless US bonds and it tanked because of it. But Biden can lie about it.


Was Trump responsible? No. Is Biden lying? Yes. Are his lies “election interference”? Maybe? It certainly has the potential to influence the lowest common denominator voter, and there are thousands if not millions who daily consume the president’s tweeted lies and believe each of them to be the word of God. How many are influenced by his flat-out falsehoods? I would submit that at least some will vote for him in the next presidential election — or not vote for another candidate — based on his deceptions and lies. Is that election interference pursuant to 18 USC sec 241? Maybe? But a prosecutor would have to be high to bring such a case.

A criminal case working its way through Federal Court is about to go to trial on Monday, March 20th. The charging document isn’t as ridiculous as charging Joe Biden with election interference but it definitely has layers of absurdity. And it doesn’t flow like a Tom Clancy novel. The United States has charged “Ricky Vaughn” under 18 USC § 241. The statute reads as follows:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or

If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured-

They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.


I’ll summarize the claims against “MAGA hat-wearing Ricky Vaughn.”

The United States charged a fictional mohawk-wearing character from the movie Major League, with election interference. It did so under a statute that never mentions “election interference.” In the leadup to the 2016 presidential election, “Ricky Vaughn” (in real life Doug Mackey) had about 58,000 Twitter followers (Account 1). Most, if not all his followers were either jobless idiots, trolls, or fellow meme-makers. In October 2016, his first account was suspended for violating Twitter rules. Mackey belonged to a chat group in which his fellow jerks speculated about how to post memes that would get the best reaction. With his first account banned, one of his “co-conspirators” gave Mackey an account with about 9,000 followers (Account 2). Mackey changed the avatar to the MAGA hat-wearing Ricky Vaughn avatar. It was from that account that Mackey posted a meme that resulted in his arrest for election interference. He wasn’t charged for four years. He won’t go to trial until six years after the fact. March 20, 2023. The meme is below.

DOJ Exhibit Doug Mackey Trial (Credit: DOJ)


Based on the Complaint’s allegations, Mackey seems to be motivated by equal parts of racism and attention-seeking. What is less clear is how a meme that, in my opinion, couldn’t motivate anyone with a working frontal lobe to “vote by text” could result in a charge of election interference.


Logic would inform us that almost all if not all of Mackey’s 9,000 followers on Account 2 knew or should have known that his meme wasn’t a real advert from Clinton, so how did he interfere with the election? According to the government, 4,900 people texted the number, of which 4850 did so right after the tweet went live. Ok, but how did that meme interfere with the election? The Complaint illustrates that iVision Mobile, which owned the Text Code, had possession of the unique cell numbers. Ok – so how many of those cell users thought that they had “texted in their vote”? The Complaint doesn’t say. It doesn’t even make the claim that any of those cell phone users were registered to vote in New York, and didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because they had already “voted” by text.

Mackey wasn’t charged for over four years and only after Joe Biden had taken the oath of office. The case worked its way to trial and was scheduled to begin with jury selection on March 13, 2023. But then The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) stepped in to, it seems, potentially influence the trial and testimony. A man named Luke O’Brien had apparently obtained private emails from a defense expert and planned to run a story about Mackey, the expert, and the coming trial.

In the middle of jury selection for his trial, Mackey’s lawyer Andrew Frisch alerted the court to a story pursued by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on the defense’s would-be expert witness George Hawley, an associate professor of political science from the University of Alabama. Though the article has not yet been published, Frisch claimed that it “unfairly disparages” Hawley and is based in part on the professor’s “private emails.”


The defense has to find a new expert. Hawley likely wanted to avoid being smeared by SPLC and O’Brien and backed out of testifying.

I could be mistaken, but this smells a lot like witness interference. It might not be intended as such but it sure has the stench of trying to influence a trial by intimidating an expert witness out of testifying.

The trial was postponed to March 20, 2023. Mackey seems to be a weirdo, likely a racist and an anti-semite. And he seems to be a not-very-bright fool, who was well out of his depth. I think Mackey thought he was being funny and was clearly getting a dopamine high off of the attention he but now faces years in prison…for a meme. I’ve defended plenty of people I found loathsome and unsavory and people I wouldn’t want to have a beer with. Part of the process is that everyone deserves a defense even if I think they are fools or criminals. Did Mackey have the specific intent to interfere with the votes? I really doubt it. His parents were concerned with his addiction to the “internet.” But meme-ing shouldn’t be a crime. It’s sad and often stupid, but not illegal, to be a loudmouth.

I don’t know what evidence the government has but one would think it would have to produce at least one person who was stupid enough to take the MAGA hat-wear Ricky Vaughn avatar seriously, was registered to vote in New York, planned to vote, actually saw that tweet, and “voted-by-text,” and then failed to actually vote. Notwithstanding my personal opinion that anyone dumb enough to buy into a pro-Clinton meme by a MAGA hat-wearing “Ricky Vaughn” avatar being actual election advice from Hillary Clinton maybe shouldn’t be voting — but that’s just my opinion.


Either way, this seems like a whole lot of dollars spent and effort expended to bury Mackey. Maybe the government found one person who fit the criteria. And if they found that one New Yorker stupid enough to “vote-by-text,” Mackey might go to prison. By the way, Mackey didn’t influence the election in New York. Trump lost his home state by almost two million votes.

Mackey is being tried in New York and there is no doubt why the government picked that venue. His chances of conviction? The deck is stacked against him, and the government needs to send a message. Watch what you meme. Big Brother is watching — and he isn’t laughing.


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