The Political Prosecution Of Douglass Mackey

the political prosecution of douglass mackey
One of the memes that got Douglass Mackey convicted of a federal crime.

The First Target Of Biden's Politicized DOJ

Long before the Biden DOJ indicted Donald Trump, their first target was Douglass Mackey, as pseudonymous ZeroHedge contributor Blue Apples pointed out earlier this year ("Douglass Mackey Convicted For Posting Political Memes From 2016"): 

There's that phrase again: election interference. Although the term has been forced down the public's throat, the level of doublethink conjured up about what does and doesn't constitute election interference to do so has grown to such an absurd extent that it would make the Politburo Commissar of Propaganda blush. While falsifying intelligence, spying on a presidential campaign, and politically motivated criminal prosecutions are decidedly not election interference according to the those beholden to the Democratic Party, making memes apparently is. That creed was consecrated upon the conviction of Douglass Mackey on charges stemming from a satirical series of tweets from 2016 in which he jested that supporters of Hilary Clinton should vote by text ahead of that year's presidential election.

Mackey was arrested in West Palm Beach, Florida on January 27th, 2021 -- just one week following the inauguration of President Biden, highlighting the apparently priority mandated upon Merrick Garland's Department of Justice to pursue political opponents. 

Our friend Paulos has an insider's account of the trial that convicted Mackey, along with a copy of his appeal. I've posted both below. Before we get to them, a quick trading update. 

Trading Update: Meme Stocks

Last week, we got a fill on one of our options bets against a meme stock, GameStop (GME). You may recall we had some success betting against a few other meme stocks earlier this year [Carvana (CVNA), Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), etc.]. We've got a limit order on a trade against another meme stock open now; if you'd like a heads up when it gets filled, feel free to subscribe to our trading Substack/occasional email list below. 

Now on to our friend Paulos with some inside info on the Mackey trial and his appeal. 

Authored by Paulos of Myth Pilot 

A Window in the Little-Publicized Douglass Mackey Meme Trial

Do you remember the Douglass Mackey case? In 2021 he was charged by the DOJ with election interference for posting satirical memes on Twitter. He went to trial in March in the Eastern District of New York, and after a week of deliberation, in which the judge unloaded an “Allen charge,” the hung jury finally returned a guilty verdict.

The case, however, is far from over. Mr. Mackey now goes to the US Court of Appeals, arguing that prosecutorial misconduct (including the willful withholding of evidence), improper venue, and erroneous jury instructions violated his rights to a fair trial.

Given that the Supreme Court has unanimously overturned several cases involving prosecutorial overreach in recent months, notably in New York, Mr. Mackey’s defense team is confident that Appeals Courts will be giving extra scrutiny to similar cases, including Mr. Mackey’s.

To give you a sense of the many problematic issues surrounding the trial, we have a courtroom account written by a friend of Douglass Mackey’s who attended the trial, written the day after it was concluded. As you read this, it’s important to keep in mind that the prosecution’s case hinges entirely on demonstrating evidence of a “conspiracy.” Under 18 U.S.C. § 241, the statute under which Mr. Mackey was charged, the offending party doesn’t have to be shown to be guilty of causing harm, merely engaging in “conspiracy.”

With that in mind, here’s the full text. Disclaimer: the report is the opinion of one friend of Douglass Mackey’s who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. What you’re reading is the subjective opinion of one member of the public who observed the proceedings, but it paints a powerful picture of the kangaroo courts that so many people, including Trump and Daniel Penny, are being subjected to.

Some outrageous facts:

  • Douglass Mackey was accused of participating in conspiracy based on conversations that occurred in group chats where he wasn’t even a member.
  • The prosecution’s key witness was charged with a crime by the same investigative team supporting the prosecution. He was then told that a “letter of recommendation” would depend on his performance as a witness against Douglass Mackey.
  • The prosecution’s key witness first made statements that the memes in question were not intended to trick or prevent anyone from voting. Several months later, after being charged with election interference (the same crime Doug was charged with), he “remembered” differently, in a way that coincidentally aligned with the prosecution’s case.
  • Instead of arguing the relevant facts of the case, the prosecution spent much of the time showing Doug’s old tweets, prejudicial material meant to paint him as sexist and racist.
  • Despite the fact that Doug didn’t reside there, and no activity related to the case occurred there, the Eastern District of New York was chosen as the venue based on the prosecution’s argument that the fiber optic cables carrying his communications passed through Brooklyn en-route to Twitter’s servers.

Full text below:

March 28, 2023

Written by an anonymous friend of Douglass Mackey

The Opening Statements - Monday, March 20th

The prosecution got the ball rolling by painting Doug as the coldest and most calculated election overthrower these jurors had ever seen. The prosecutor showed the jury two text-to-vote memes that Doug posted, and another that he retweeted from an account called "Nia4Trump". [They claimed] the memes in question could not be construed as a joke. They were carefully crafted to look exactly like a Hillary campaign ad. The entire point was to trick people or, as the prosecution put it, "vaporize votes." They introduced the idea that he did not work alone but led an intricate network of co-conspirators. In the end, the phone number on the memes received 4,900 texts.

Next, it was the defense's turn to introduce the trial to the jurors. Andy Frisch [Mr. Mackey’s lawyer] asked the jury to consider how these memes could possibly be construed as serious attempts to defraud voters. The memes did not ask for the voter's name, state, or age – let alone for verification of proper voter registration. These memes were what the defense called a "sh*tpost" — an attempt to stir the pot and go viral. The defense also informed the jury that the memes were posted a week before the election. Why would Doug post them a week before if his intention was to maximally defraud the election? Of the 4,900 texts that the number received, roughly 4,800 were sent after major media outlets such as Buzzfeed and CNN reported on them. The defense also mentioned how, once media outlets picked up the story, Doug messaged something like, "tfw you haphazardly post memes on twitter and it gets picked up by national media."

What stood out to me from the opening statements was that the prosecution left out facts and details, whereas the defense freely offered them. The prosecution claimed that Doug was part of a greater conspiracy but they didn't divulge any details about it. They accused Doug of wanting to maximally "vaporize votes," but they failed to mention that the memes were posted a whole week before the election. They claimed the number in the meme received 4,900 text messages but conveniently omitted that 4,800 were sent after national media reported the story. This would not be the last time the federal prosecutors resorted to hand-wavy arguments.

Calling Witnesses - Monday, March 20th to Tuesday, March 21st

Over the next few days, the prosecution paraded in several Johnny Pencilpusher types to substantiate their bogus claims. The first witness was some chinless hall-monitor-type professor from Chicago who was the first to report Doug's memes to Twitter. They also brought on a Clinton campaign staffer to express how gravely these memes concerned her. An FBI agent took the stand to present an analysis showing that Doug and the members of his group chats often used the same hashtags, implying coordination (lol).

This FBI agent also helped introduce Twitter group chat messages as evidence. Various group chats were shown – some of which Doug wasn't even a member of. At one point, the prosecution presented DMs between the FBI's confidential witness and some random Twitter anon discussing how it might be maximally effective to post the text-to-vote memes a week or so out from the election (more on this later). Some of the messages from the group chats discussed the vote-to-text memes. Some talked about how wild it would be if people fell for them. One guy mentioned they shouldn't make a Trump ad version because they don't want Trump supporters to fall for it. There was discussion about how to make the fake ads more believable. Notably absent from all of these messages was Doug himself. He participated in none of the back-and-forths regarding the memes in question.

The group chats that Doug was not in were allowed into evidence because they were partially made up of people in Doug’s other group chats. Because Doug’s other group chats with these people discussed text-to-vote memes, these people are considered Doug’s co-conspirators. Therefore, it is incriminating to Doug any time these co-conspirators talk about text-to-vote memes — even if Doug is not present. Or so the logic goes.

A Spectrum internet executive came to explain to the jury how Doug's tweets could've conceivably traveled through fiber optic cables running from Manhattan, where Doug lived, to Brooklyn. This is crucial for the prosecution to establish venue in the Eastern District of New York. (Manhattan is in the Southern District of New York).

One of the more interesting witnesses was Paul Nehlen. The prosecution brought in Paul to confirm Doug's identity as Ricky Vaughn. It was Paul that originally doxed Doug back in 2018 – the event that made this case possible.

The Confidential Witness - Wednesday, March 22nd

The prosecution needs to prove a conspiracy. The jury must determine that Doug was planning and working with others to injure citizens' right to vote to deliver a guilty verdict.

The Fed's case against Doug heavily relies on the testimony of a confidential witness named Microchip...I saw this CW testify in court. He is 400 pounds minimum and wore a royal blue sweatsuit (I assume those are the only clothes he can fit in). He is an oily person with long unwashed hair and a sleazy, insinuating way of talking. This witness was some random dude that used bot accounts on Twitter to spam pro-Trump stuff. He was in a couple of group chats with Ricky Vaughn and dozens of other people. In 2018, the Feds, led by Maegan Rees, paid him a visit and said, "It'd be a real shame if you had IRS debts or if we found out you used to have a drug addiction...luckily, if you become an informant for us against right-wing internet anons we won't find that out." So he started informing the Feds about everything going on in the group chats he was in.

According to Microchip, this arrangement went on for a couple of years on an “as-needed” basis. Then in February 2021, just weeks after Biden's inauguration and Doug's arrest, Rees and Microchip's other Fed handlers called to tell him that they were thinking about charging him with defrauding voters for posting a "hashtag-to-vote" meme around the 2016 election.

This was a nightmare scenario for Microchip. Microchip is a self-employed contractor, so any doxing would tank his business. Panicked, Microchip pleaded guilty and faces a few years in prison. The Feds knew he was in group chats that discussed the text-to-vote memes with Doug. They told Microchip that they would write a letter of recommendation for a reduced sentence if he did a good job testifying against Ricky. The catch is that this is a performance-based review — the letter depends on him doing a "good job" testifying against Doug.

The same group of Feds turned Microchip into an informant, charged him with defrauding voters, and held the recommendation letter over his head. By pure coincidence, these are the same Feds working the case against Doug. At one point in Mircrochip’s cross-examination, the defense asked him who would write the recommendation letter for reduced sentencing. Microchip looked up at the ceiling, thought about it for a second, gestured towards the prosecution table, and said, “These guys.”

To me, it is clear that Microchip is a groomed witness. The Feds knew he was on right-wing Twitter and in group chats with Ricky Vaughn (and others). They found dirt on him and used that as leverage to turn him into an informant. The Feds then charged him with defrauding voters for the sole purpose of backing him into a plea deal to testify against Doug.

The prosecutor’s case specifically depends on Microchip's testimony that he and Ricky sent those tweets, not for kicks and giggles but to trick Hillary Clinton voters into not going to the polls. However, in Microchip's first interview with the government about this case in April 2021, he said that they never intended to trick anyone and it was nothing more than a joke. He also said there was no real coordination between group chat members. Everything you see in the group chats that sounds like coordination is just people messing around online. A year later, he changed his tune and said in his plea deal that it was all a collective effort to defraud the election.

The Fed attorney basically asked Microchip in direct examination, "At first, you said you didn't mean to defraud voters...but then after spending a few hours going through the evidence with the federal agents, your memory was refreshed, and you remembered that you did, in fact, intend to trick people... isn't that right?" Microchip did not a hesitate a second to confirm that, “Yes, yes. That is exactly what happened. It is impossible for me to believe that the threat of prison didn’t influence Microchip to change his testimony.

Doug Takes the Stand - Thursday, March 23rd

Doug took the stand on the fourth day of the trial and the last day of witnesses. The defense started by asking Doug for the story of the memes in his own words. They established a few key pieces of the narrative. For one, Doug found the memes on 4chan. He had no part in creating them, and there is no evidence of him asking someone to doctor them. He saw the memes, thought they were good, and copied them over to Twitter. Doug posted up to a hundred times a day on Twitter during this period. Not each Tweet was a master plan. Doug and his attorney painted a picture of a battle between Ricky Vaughn and the Hillary campaign — Doug wanted to post things that would rile up the staffers and distract them from performing more critical tasks.

As for the messages, the defense established that Doug was in dozens of Twitter group chats, many with up to fifty members. These group chats received hundreds of messages per day. Doug had many of them on mute. Regarding the text-to-vote messages, Doug said on the stand that he never saw them. Even outside of this testimony, no single message shows Doug planned a text-to-vote scheme.

During the cross-examination, Erik Paulsen focused on establishing intent and conspiracy. He first worked on the conspiracy portion. One of my favorite questions was when Erik asked Doug, "Would you say there's a lot of 'info' on Twitter?" to which Doug, looking understandably confused, responded, "Info?" Paulsen showed Doug all the screenshots of the Twitter groups and continued to ask questions implying that Doug was conspiring with these people. He asked Doug if he knew the people in the group chats. Doug replied, "I recognize the username, but I don't know anything more."

Doug verbally sparred with the prosecutor. Paulsen hoped to trap Doug in a semantic game of yes or no questions, and Doug refused to play. Paulsen repeatedly accused Doug of knowing that the people in these group chats were conspiring to trick people with text-to-vote memes. Doug continued explaining that he hardly ever read those group chats and wasn't even in some of the groups in evidence. There was no way he could possibly read hundreds of messages a day. The evidence exhibits highlighted a couple of dozen messages out of thousands. Paulsen kept responding, "But you were in the chat!" getting increasingly frustrated after each consecutive question. I assume Paulsen knows how group chats work — group chats are a common way for people to stay in touch with friends, and it is very common for people today to be members of several group chats while not actively participating in them. No one keeps up with it all. However, Paulsen is clearly hoping the jury, mostly people over 60, doesn't know how group chats work. To my mind, the prosecution completely failed to prove that Doug was actually involved in any of these chats.

Paulsen then directed his line of questioning at the coordination within these groups. These Twitter group chats often discussed trending topics and hashtags. One group chat, "The War Room," opened with a message stating that the explicit purpose of the group was to coordinate for maximum impact on Twitter. The users of these groups often discussed the same topics and used the same hashtags in their Twitter posts. Doug used his answers to explain that this does not prove he was conspiring with these people — the topics and hashtags used were often trending on the platform as a whole. These were not unique to these group chats. Paulsen became so frustrated at one point he had an outburst, saying to Doug, "You can do your speech…" before being cut off by the judge.

(It's worth noting how much Doug got to defend himself during his answers to Erik Paulsen's questions. I could not believe Paulsen let Doug talk as much as he did. This thwarted the cross-examination, especially regarding the issue of the group chats.)

The last and likely most effective line of questioning focused on painting Doug as a vicious racist and misogynist. Paulsen asked Doug why the two memes he selected featured minority women — one black and the other Hispanic. Paulsen showed an onslaught of tweets from the Ricky Vaughn account about women, minorities, and voting published from 2015 to the 2016 election. In these tweets, Doug said blacks were dumb, had an 85 IQ, the 19th Amendment should be repealed, immigrants shouldn't be allowed to vote, and other inflammatory statements. There were also tweets where Doug discussed how crucial minority and female voter turnout was for Clinton. The hope here is that the jury would reason that Doug is an evil racist that doesn't want women or minorities to vote and that, therefore, he would take steps to prevent them from doing so.

The defense objected to these tweets going into evidence, saying they had little to nothing to do with the alleged crime of intimidating voters and their only conceivable purpose was to inflame the jury. The judge allowed them in, concluding that they were relevant to establishing relevant character traits for Doug. The line of questioning the prosecution used to thread these memes with the alleged crime was pointing out that the text-to-vote memes Doug posted featured minorities. Many inflammatory Ricky Vaughn tweets were declared inadmissible. However, some were not. The conclusion is that in the eyes of the modern court system, racism and sexism are crimes, and any evidence of them can and will be held against the defendant. The prosecution will likely find a way to tie them in with any case that potentially involves a female or minority victim because if the defendant is capable of prejudice, then what else might they be capable of?

The defense's rebuttal was relatively short. Andy Frisch wanted to get Doug off the stand. The most memorable part was Doug saying through tears that he apologized to his family for the pain he caused them through his Ricky Vaughn account.

Closing Statements - Monday, March 27th

The prosecution kicked off the closing arguments. First, Erik Paulsen addressed the issue of venue. Paulsen said that venue is not at all in question thanks to the magic internet wires. He showed the memes again and expressed his view that the images do not contain any jokes or political speech. They are simply fake ads.

Paulsen rehashed his conspiracy case. He showed the jurors all the screenshots from the groups talking about the text-to-vote memes. None of them featured messages from Doug. Many were from groups that Doug wasn't even a member of. He then argued that Doug's retweet of "Nia4Trump's" also proved conspiracy. Nia did actively discuss the memes in some of these group chats, and Doug retweeted her contribution (even though they never communicated about it). That equation — Doug was in the group chats with Nia, Nia discussed the text-to-vote memes, Doug retweeted Nia’s text-to-vote meme — is enough to prove the conspiracy, according to the prosecution.

The language Paulsen used to describe the group chats was intentionally deceitful. Instead of saying that Doug was a part of this group chat and not the other, Paulsen said things like "Doug was present for this conversation" and "Doug was not necessarily present for this one." It is worth reiterating that Doug did not say anything in the conversations he was allegedly "present" for. There is no evidence that he saw the messages — just that he was a member of the group chats.

Next was the intent argument. This is what was going to stick with the jury. Paulsen showed tweets where Doug said the election was “on a razor’s edge.” I guess this was supposed to show that Doug thought the election was so close that a couple of memes could make all the difference. Paulsen went through all the evidence that proved Doug was a racist and a misogynist. Whether or not the prosecution could show any evidence that Doug intended to hinder people's voting rights, they painted the picture that he is the type of person who would want to.

Andy Frisch’s, the defense, began his closing arguments with an appeal to the history of John Lewis and Michelle Obama as examples of courageous speakers. Frisch then lectured the jury on the dangers of limiting expression, using Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill to highlight attacks on free speech.

Frisch dismantled Mircrochip's credibility as a witness. He read several of Microchip's own tweets discussing drug use, inability to take care of himself, and "having the crazy." He showed how the government's documents describe Microchip as a drug addict. In fewer words, he explained to the jury that Microchip is nothing more than a groomed witness that will do anything the Feds ask him to because of their leverage on him. On top of the IRS debts and the drug history, the Feds also have the threat of revealing his identity. The case relies on Microchip confirming conspiracy and his credibility is questionable, to say the least. The defense then worked on picking apart the "conspiracy." The conspiracy is nothing more than screenshots of messages Doug never saw. Frisch held up the screenshots of the Twitter group chats in evidence and told the jury that Doug is nowhere to be found.

Frisch displayed text-to-vote memes from left-wing comedians that are still up on Twitter. He also made a final argument about venue. Why is this case in Brooklyn? Doug didn't live or work in the Eastern District of New York. The government can't produce any victims from EDNY. There is only one connection between the case and Brooklyn — the headquarters of the Clinton campaign were in Brooklyn, across the street from the courthouse.

In the prosecution's rebuttal, they further appealed to Mircrochip's testimony. They spent a good chunk of time painting Doug as a racist and misogynist. And they concluded by again explaining that the memes in question do not contain any jokes — they are simply fake ads.

In my opinion, the prosecution's case is a complete sham. When it comes to proving intent and conspiracy, the FBI has no concrete evidence — just a bunch of hand-wavy innuendos. The conspiracy relies on a bunch of messages Doug never read, a single retweet, and the word of a 400-pound groomed witness that would spin a beach ball on his nose if the Feds asked him to. Rather than proving that Doug broke the law, it seemed the prosecution relied on painting Doug as a racist and sexist who would take it upon himself to defraud minorities and women of their right to vote.

Mr. Mackey faces 10 years in prison for sharing memes on Twitter. You can support his appeal process regarding this very important First Amendment case by donating to his defense efforts:

Douglass Mackey's Appeal

Here is a copy of Mackey's appeal. 

Mackey Appeal Filing Updated by David Pinsen on Scribd

Authored by By Portfolio Armor via ZeroHedge July 5th 2023