Federal agents have charged a California man for making violent threats to harm the family of Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, as well as the New York relative of a journalist, prosecutors announced on Tuesday.
Bay Shore resident Robert Lemke, 35, faces up to five years in federal prison for allegedly making threatening interstate communications, according to US Attorney Audrey Strauss of the Southern District of New York.
Prosecutors allege that Lemke made the menacing remarks to Jeffries and the unidentified journalist on Jan. 6 — the same day that an angry mob of Trump supporters at the so-called “Stop the Steal” rally stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to interrupt the certification of the presidential election results.
“Rather than peaceably disagree, Lemke allegedly threatened to harm those individuals’ families, demanding they retract their statements,” Strauss said in a statement. “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.”
Investigators picked up the suspect during an investigation by the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“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,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.
Lemke allegedly sent a text message to one of Jeffries’ brothers, which included a photo of a home in the same neighborhood as the legislator’s relative. Jeffries is chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and gained national prominence while serving as a manager during former President Trump’s first impeachment trial last year.
In the text to Jeffries’ brother, Lemke allegedly wrote, “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 for him.”
Prosecutors said Lemke further claimed that he had spoken with Jeffries’ son that he knew where his kids were.
On the same day, Lemke allegedly sent similar threats to the congressman’s sister-in-law, telling her to “calm your husband down” and that “we saw on the hidden camera he was quite stirred up.”
Also on Jan. 6, federal agents allege, Lemke sent threats via text to a journalist’s relative of a similar nature. He indicated that the journalist’s “words are putting you and your family at risk” and that “we are armed and ready.” Lemke allegedly described the “we” to which he referred as thousands of “active/retired law enforcement” and military.
An examination of Lemke’s Facebook account revealed threats made prior to the Capitol raid. On Nov. 7, 2020 — the day major media outlets projected Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election over former President Trump — Lemke allegedly posted about Trump’s false claims of a rigged election, writing, “Folks. Be ready for war.”
He also urged people who read his message to “keep an eye out for a variety of protests, and Stop the Steal Facebook groups for updates.”
In a statement, Jeffries’ office expressed gratitude to the FBI, US Capitol Police, the NYPD and other law enforcement authorities “for their commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of his family and all Members of the United States Congress.”
Several New York City residents allegedly involved in the Jan. 6 putsch are currently awaiting prosecution for their role in the attempted overthrow of the elected president, including Sheepshead Bay resident Dominick Madden.
Jeffries represents New York’s 8th Congressional District, which includes the Brooklyn communities of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, East New York, Canarsie, Mill Basin and Coney Island along with South Ozone Park and Howard Beach in Queens.
This story first appeared on AMNY.com.