Arizona Public Media published an article last week which falsely stated former Cochise County Elections Director Lisa Marra was the subject of a death threat weeks before the 2022 General Election. But public records show the person threatened in the referenced email was not Marra.
Instead, the Oct. 22, 2022, email was directed at a top employee of the Cochise County Attorney’s Office, a fact previously reported by Arizona Daily Independent based on numerous records obtained from the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, Sierra Vista Police Department, and Cochise County Superior Court.
That employee is Christine Roberts, the county’s chief deputy county attorney responsible for the department’s civil division as well as administrative matters.
As of April 1, the incorrect assertion in the AZPM’s March 29 article that Marra was the target has not been corrected by the outlet or by Cochise County officials. Nor apparently by Marra, who now works for the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
The threatening email referred to in the article was also sent to then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and her top elections official, Kori Lorick. All three women were frequently in the public eye related to elections; one of Roberts’ duties is as legal advisor to the Cochise County Board of Supervisors.
An inquiry to AZPM went unanswered as to the source of information for its assertion.
The AZPM article correctly notes Marra was the subject of often harsh and even vulgar public criticism of how she was performing her job, which she quit in January after two of the county supervisors initiated an unauthorized lawsuit against her.
However, the article accepts as fact Marra’s claims over the last year that as Cochise County’s elections director she routinely received “threatening” phone calls and emails. Marra even submitted written and oral comments to a Congressional committee about the topic last year.
A public records request submitted last August seeking support of those claims has resulted in the release of dozens of records – none of which mention a threat or suggestion that Marra or her staff might be placed in harm’s way for doing their job.
There is concern that exaggeration of complaints, even the most vile, will distract from very real threats such as the one emailed to Roberts, Lorick, and Hobbs.
Multiple search warrants have been executed as part of the investigation into the threat which came from email@example.com. Microsoft has cooperated with investigators since October, but court records show the user intentionally undertook measures to remain anonymous.
Various law enforcement agencies are still involved in the investigation, including the Sierra Vista Police Department and the FBI.
A few other criminal investigations have resulted in prosecutions for verified threats against public officials whose work involves elections. One such case involves a Texas man who targeted Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and a top member of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
In the meantime, Marra gained national notoriety for her frequent comments about receiving threats, particularly in her role as president of Elections Officials of Arizona, a government sector lobbying association. She later parlayed her claims into a powerful position working for Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes.
In January, Fontes gave a media interview in which he called the decision by some county recorders and elections directors to quit since 2020 “an emergency” brought on by harassment that is fueled by election disinformation. He was also quoted in the recent AZPM article as saying threats against election workers are on the rise.
Fontes has not commented on the false claim propagated in the AZPM article that Marra was the victim of a death threat investigation due to her elections job.