Nebraska man pleads guilty to threatening Colorado secretary of state over Instagram

Travis Ford made Instagram threats to Sec. Jena Griswold, President Biden
jena griswold
Posted at 4:36 PM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 18:42:14-04

DENVER – A Nebraska man pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal charge after he made several physical threats to Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold over Instagram last August, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Travis Ford, 42, of Lincoln, Neb., pleaded guilty to one count of threatening use of a communication device in a plea agreement that was signed June 10, then approved by the court in the U.S. District Court of Nebraska.

According to federal court documents, Ford faces up to two years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and a year of supervised release when he is sentenced on Oct. 6.

According to a federal complaint and the plea agreement, Ford posted comments on Griswold’s public Instagram on Aug. 10 and Aug. 20 of last year with threatening messages.

The first, posted Aug. 10, said: “Do you feel safe? You shouldn’t. Do you think Soros will/can protect you?”

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A screenshot of one of the messages sent by Ford provided by the secretary of state's office.

The second, posted 10 days later, said: “Your security detail is far too thin and incompetent to protect you. This world is unpredictable these days…anything can happen to anyone.”

The federal documents do not identify Griswold as the target of the threats, but the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office confirmed Thursday the threats were posted to one of her public Instagram accounts.

According to Ford’s plea agreement, Ford had become convinced after the November 2020 election that Griswold “had mismanaged the 2020 election.” It says Griswold “expressed fear after viewing these two comments and provided them to law enforcement.”

The plea agreement also says that between Sept. 15 and Oct. 31, Ford also made several threats to President Joe Biden and another public figure.

Law enforcement interviewed Ford on Feb. 15, at which time he admitted the posts he made went “far far far beyond free speech” and “far past the line” and that he made them as “a true threat,” according to Ford’s plea agreement.

Since the threats were made by an anonymous account, across state lines, and could be construed as true threats, Ford was criminally charged by the Department of Justice.

Griswold last December asked for additional security in the wake of threats against her and other election officials, and her office received more than $100,000 for extra security.

“It is heartening to see the Department of Justice taking these threats seriously and prosecuting people who make threats against election officials based on the Big Lie,” Griswold said in a statement Thursday. “As Colorado Secretary of State, I will always ensure that Colorado’s elections remain among the safest and most secure in the nation and will never bet deterred from doing my job.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis also this month signed the Election Official Protection Act, which prohibits intimidating and threatening an election official and makes doing so a class 2 misdemeanor. It also creates a criminal penalty for someone who doxxes an election official.

Polis also signed the Colorado Election Security Act, aimed at further protecting Colorado’s elections in the wake of breaches in Mesa County and investigations into another possible breach in Elbert County by election conspiracy theories.

“Threats of violence against election officials are dangerous for people’s safety and dangerous for our democracy, and we will use every resource at our disposal to disrupt and investigate those threats and hold perpetrators accountable,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

“We are proud to work with our partners at FBI Denver, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nebraska, and the Justice Department’s Criminal Division to hold this defendant accountable for threatening an election official in Colorado,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado Cole Finegan. “If you make online threats of violence, do not count on remaining anonymous.”