A plan to get back at Florida Republicans for a 2012 purge aimed at ineligible voters backfired on a Seattle man, who now faces up to six years in prison and more than $350,000 in fines. According to a U.S. Attorney’s Office plea agreement filed Monday in Tampa’s U.S. District Court, James Webb Baker Jr., 58, sent about 200 letters a month before the 2012 presidential election to prominent Florida Republicans in an effort to intimidate them and interfere with their voting rights. When contacted by phone in Seattle, Baker referred questions to his lawyer, Tampa attorney John Fitzgibbons. “Mr. Baker regrets the events which led to these charges,” Fitzgibbons said in a statement. “He has acknowledged and accepted responsibility for his actions and we look forward to the conclusion of this matter.” Though he lives 3,000 miles away, Florida politics pulled Baker into his current legal troubles. Around October 2012, Baker had read online articles about efforts by Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner to remove people from the official county lists of eligible voters. The stories reported that county officials were identifying registered voters whose eligibility was questioned, then sending them letters informing them they may be ineligible to vote.
Baker believed this was being done to suppress voter turnout, according to the plea agreement. “(Baker) believed that the efforts of (Scott) and (Detzner) were targeted at Hispanic voters who would likely vote for candidates of the Democratic Party,” the plea agreement stated. “(Baker) believed that some of the recipients of such letters would not vote, and this belief angered him.”
So Baker created “copycat” letters of the ones that were sent by county officials. He sent 200 of these letters to Republican Party donors in Florida. Using a Xerox Phaser 6180 printer he bought from Craigslist.com, Baker tried to avoid detection by wearing gloves and using a sponge to seal the envelopes.