Maine Secretary of State Targeted by ‘Swatting’ After Trump Ballot Decision

Maine’s secretary of state was the victim of a “swatting” call to her home, the authorities said, the latest politician to be targeted in recent weeks by people reporting fake crimes to the police, hoping to provoke heavily armed responses.

A hoax call was placed on Friday night, just a day after the secretary of state, Shenna Bellows, barred Donald J. Trump from the state’s ballot, a politically fraught decision that drew criticism from Republicans across the country.

The state police said that in the call, a man claimed to have broken into Ms. Bellows’s home in Manchester, just outside the capital city of Augusta. State troopers searched the residence, but did not find anything suspicious. Ms. Bellows was not home at the time, the authorities said.

In a statement, the state police said that the incident was under investigation and that officials were “working with our law enforcement partners to provide special attention to any and all appropriate locations.” No arrests have been made.

Senator Rick Scott of Florida reported that his home in Naples, Fla., was swatted last week.Credit…Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia says she has now been swatted eight times.Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Ms. Bellows drew national attention after she ruled that the former president did not qualify for the ballot because of his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Bellows, a Democrat, defended her decision, saying that it was not one she “made lightly” and that Maine election law required her to act.

The ban, which is facing a court challenge, made Maine the second state, after Colorado, to disqualify Mr. Trump from the primary ballot this year.

In a statement on Saturday, Ms. Bellows wrote that she had received escalating threats since her decision, and that her home address was leaked while she and her husband were out of town for the holiday weekend.

“The nonstop threatening communications the people who work for me endured all day yesterday is unacceptable,” she wrote on Facebook, adding, “We should be able to agree to disagree on important issues without threats and violence.”

Swatting incidents have risen in recent years, and advances in technology have made it easier for perpetrators to make 911 calls sound more credible. In May, the F.B.I. formed a national database to track such attacks across the country.

In the days before the hoax call against Ms. Bellows, numerous other high-profile politicians said swatters had targeted their homes.

Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, said that his home in Naples, Fla., was targeted on Dec. 27 while he and his wife were out to dinner. “These criminals wasted the time & resources of our law enforcement in a sick attempt to terrorize my family,” he wrote on the social media platform X.

On Dec. 25, a hoax call sent the police to the home of Michelle Wu, the mayor of Boston, according to a police report. Ms. Wu told WBUR that she had been the target of several swatting calls since she became mayor in 2021.

“When there are true emergencies that happen and there are resources being deployed in this way, it is concerning,” Ms. Wu told the news outlet.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican from Georgia who was ousted from the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus over the summer, said that she was swatted on Christmas Day, and not for the first time.

“After today, I have been swatted 8 times but the F.B.I. can’t seem to figure out who is responsible for the swatting,” she wrote on X. “Thankfully my local police are far too smart, know me well, and know exactly what these swatting calls are.”

In past cases, the calls have turned deadly: In 2019, a California man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to making dozens of fake calls, including one that led to a Kansas resident being fatally shot by the police. A year later, a man in Bethpage, Tenn., died of a heart attack after the police swarmed his home following a fake emergency call.

Hoax calls to law enforcement have also been weaponized against tech executives, journalists and places of worship.

Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting.

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