Douglass Mackey, the supporter of former President Donald Trump who was sentenced to seven months in prison over a meme, was set free pending his appeal Monday, Just The News reported. Mackey was convicted of election interference in March.
"IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant-Appellant Douglass Mackey's motion for release pending appeal is GRANTED. Mackey's surrender date is stayed," the court declared.
"The District Court is ordered to determine the appropriate terms of release, without prejudice to the government's making a future request for detention," it added. Mackey is set to appear again in January for additional proceedings.
He was convicted in March for a meme he made in the run-up to the 2016 election. Mackey had encouraged supporters of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate at the time, to vote by text, knowing that it was not a valid way to cast a ballot.
"Avoid the Line. Vote from Home. Text 'Hillary' to 59925[.] Vote for Hillary and be a part of history," the image said.
This was part of Mackey's online antics he performed under the name "Ricky Vaugh," Fox News reported. The 34-year-old Palm Beach, Florida, man had 58,000 followers on X, which was Twitter at that time.
During his trial, it was revealed that Mackey was named the 107th most important influencer in the 2016 race. He was unapologetically pro-Trump and often retweeted the then-GOP candidate's post.
The self-described "American nationalist" was arrested in January 2021 and convicted in a Brooklyn court. His attorney, Andrew Frisch, said at the time that he was "optimistic" that they would prevail in an appeal as Mackey was exercising his First Amendment rights.
The prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Breon Peace, said that the jury didn't buy it. Instead, they saw that Mackey was guilty of perpetrating a voter suppression campaign during a crucial time in the 2016 election season.
"Today’s verdict proves that the defendant’s fraudulent actions crossed a line into criminality," Peace said. It also came to light that Mackey had previously organized an effort to suppress "black turnout."
His memes were considered election interference as they looked similar to those sent out by the Clinton campaign, down to the font Mackcey used for his memes. The scheme ran from September 2016 to November 2016.
Mackey had co-conspirators who helped spread the phony messages. By Election Day 2016, the phone number Mackey provided in his fake ads received 4,900 separate texts with the word "Hillary" or some variation.
The appeal will likely head to the Supreme Court to address the question of whether the government can limit free speech because it's a lie knowingly told. That question has yet to be answered in light of the fact that politicians lie all of the time to get elected, according to UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh.
On the face of it, it makes sense that a scheme to suppress votes would be punishable by law. However, the problem has always been that the law is unfairly applied when it comes to Trump and his supporters, and Mackey likely got caught up in a legal bind because of that fact.