Missouri man indicted over threat to Arizona official is a public school employee

By: - August 19, 2022 7:00 am

Protestors in support of former President Donald Trump gather May 1, 2021, outside Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix where ballots from the 2020 general election wait to be counted (Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images).

A Missouri public school employee facing federal charges for allegedly threatening an Arizona election official is “embarrassed and humbled,” his attorney said Thursday.

Walter Lee Hoornstra, 50, was indicted Tuesday on one count of communicating an interstate threat, which carries a maximum prison term of five years, and one count of making a threatening telephone call, which could result in a two year prison term.

Hoornstra, who goes by “Butch,” works as the Gainesville R-5 School District’s technology director.

According to federal prosecutors, Hoomstra was so upset with comments made by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer about Arizona’s “audit” of the 2020 presidential election results that he left a voicemail threatening his life. 

“So, I see you’re for fair and competent elections. Tthat’s what it says here on your homepage for your recorder position you’re trying to fly here. But you call things unhinged and insane lies when there’s a forensic audit going on,” Hoornstra said in a May 19, 2021, voicemail to Richer, according to federal prosecutors.

“You need to check yourself. You need to do your f***ing job right because other people from other states are watching your ass,” Hoornstra allegedly said in the voicemail. “You f***ing renege on this deal or give them any more troubles, your ass will never make it to your next little board meeting.”

Hoornstra has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney said he voluntarily turned himself in and is cooperating with prosecutors. 

“This is an unfortunate incident for Butch, who lives in Tecumseh, Missouri, and has no prior criminal record,” his attorney, Joseph Passanise, said in a statement to the media. 

Passanise, a longtime attorney from Springfield who in June was appointed by Gov. Mike Parson to serve on the Missouri Tourism Commission, noted that Hoonstra is “a disabled combat veteran who defended his country during Operation Desert Storm.”

“The sheer awesome power of the federal government can be incredibly intimidating to any citizen once charged,” he said. “Today, Mr. Hoornstra entered a plea of not guilty and was released on his own recognizance. We look forward to reviewing the government’s case moving forward.”

Richer told the Arizona Mirror this week that the voicemail — and dozens more like it — were left on his cell phone after former President Donald Trump amplified the baseless claim that county election officials deleted electronic files.

After six months of work on the so-called audit — including inspecting ballots for traces of bamboo to determine if they were imported from Asia and reportedly scanning them with UV lights to look for secret watermarks — a company called Cyber Ninjas released a report that failed to show that Donald Trump was cheated of victory in Arizona.

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Jason Hancock
Jason Hancock

Jason Hancock has spent two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, with most of that time focused on the Missouri statehouse as a reporter for The Kansas City Star. A three-time National Headliner Award winner, he helped launch The Missouri Independent in October 2020.