WASHINGTON – David A. Tuason of Cleveland, Ohio, has pleaded guilty to eight counts of transmitting threatening communications, announced Grace Chung Becker, Acting Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, William J. Edwards, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and C. Frank Figliuzzi, Special Agent in Charge of the Cleveland Division of the FBI.
The indictment in this case alleges that Tuason, using both the U.S. mail and electronic mail, sent communications to multiple African-American men, including an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, a former NBA basketball player, musicians, news anchors, and a juvenile, in which Tuason threatened to kill the recipients. Tuason’s victims were located in Ohio and throughout the United States. While Tuason sent the majority of his communications from the Cleveland area, he also sent communications from New York and Pennsylvania, as well as other parts of Ohio.
In one of the communications, Tuason threatened to blow up the Supreme Court building. In other communications detailed in the indictment, Tuason threatened to castrate, shoot or stab his victims. In addition to the threats, Tuason’s communications typically contained racial slurs denouncing inter-racial relationships. As part of his guilty plea, Tuason admitted that his actions in transmitting the communications were motivated by racially based animosity toward individuals he believed to be involved in inter-racial relationships, as well as the children of inter-racial couples.
“The defendant’s despicable threats are offensive to our nation’s fundamental values,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Becker. “The Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting the federal laws prohibiting violent acts motivated by ignorance and hate.”
“It was the persistence of the FBI over many years that resulted in this prosecution,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Edwards. “We are gratified that the investigation not only solved cases involving nationally prominent victims but also redressed matters involving victims who are local residents of our community. Whether a citizen be ordinary or nationally prominent, no person should be required to endure the types of threatening communications involved in this case. Persons who may be tempted to send such communications either by U.S. mail or by computer technology should realize that their actions will be investigated and prosecuted vigorously.”
“There is no room for hate crimes in a civil society,” said Special Agent in Charge Figliuzzi. “For 20 years, the FBI never gave up on a search for the writer of these violent and hate-filled letters and our dedication to this case reflects our dedication to tenaciously enforcing the civil rights laws of our nation.”
The maximum penalties for conviction on the charge involving the Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court are 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release following any period of incarceration. The maximum penalties for the remaining counts are five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release following any period of incarceration. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benita Pearson and Dean Valore of the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Northern District of Ohio with assistance from the Criminal Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. The case was investigated by special agents of the FBI Civil Rights Squad in the Cleveland Field Office.
Prosecuting the perpetrators of bias-motivated crimes is a top priority of the Justice Department. Since 2001, the Civil Rights Division has charged 223 defendants in 154 cases of bias-motivated crimes.