Man indicted for threatening Arabs in Washington D.C.
AAI Welcomes DOJ Indictment for Hate Crime Against Man Who Repeatedly Threatened Organization
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice charged a Virginia man with four counts of threatening Arab American Institute (AAI) staff because of their Arab ancestry and three counts of threatening AAI employees for their advocacy efforts on behalf of Arab Americans. The charges come at a time when hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry, and religion are on the rise. In 2016 hate crime incidents reported to the FBI increased by 4.6% with most of that increase occurring between October and December. Among the overall rise in reported incidents, hate crimes against Arab Americans rose by 38% in 2016, according to the FBI. These increases do not account for the massive under reporting of hate crimes that continue to occur.
Given the special challenges that come with pursuing hate crimes charges, AAI is appreciative of the work and efforts put forth by the agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the lawyers at the Department of Justice whose tireless efforts in this case made this indictment possible.
“Our community understands all too well the threat we live under because of our advocacy work. It is not new and this type of intimidation against our community, or all others, will not be tolerated. While these threats will never stop our fight for empowerment and our commitment to stand with our allies, I am pleased that the threats to our amazing staff are taken seriously and efforts are taken to keep them safe. I very much appreciate of the hard work of the FBI and the Civil Rights Division in this case. We will continue our good work, fighting to make sure our rights—and that of all Americans—are respected and protected,” AAI President James Zogby said.
Founded in 1985, the Arab American Institute (AAI) is a nonprofit organization committed to the civic and political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent. AAI provides policy, research and public affairs services to support a broad range of community activities. For more information please visit aaiusa.org
Here is the Department of Justice press release:
Virginia Man Indicted for Hate Crime and Threatening Employees of the Arab American Institute
The Justice Department today charged William Patrick Syring, 60, from Arlington, Virginia, to four counts of threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin, three counts of threatening AAI employees because of their efforts to encourage Arab Americans to participate in political and civic life in the United States, and seven counts of transmitting threats to AAI employees in interstate commerce. A summons was issued for Syring to appear in federal court in Washington, D.C. AAI is a Washington D.C. based private non-profit organization whose purpose is to encourage the direct participation of Arab Americans in political and civic life in the United States.
Each charge of threatening AAI employees because of their race and national origin and because of their advocacy on behalf of AAI provides for a sentence of no greater than one year in prison, one year of supervised release, and a fine of up to $100,000. Each charge of transmitting a threat in interstate commerce provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
According to court documents, Syring previously pleaded guilty to threatening AAI employees through e-mails and voicemails sent in 2006. Syring was sentenced on July 11, 2008 to 12 months of imprisonment followed by three years of post-release supervision, 100 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
Following termination of his supervised release, Syring resumed communications with AAI employees, sending AAI employees over 350 e-mails from March 2012 to January 2018. Several of the e-mails Syring sent to AAI employees during this time period contained true threats using language similar to that which formed the basis of his prior conviction.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Senior Legal Counsel Mark Blumberg and Trial Attorney Nick Reddick.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.