WASHINGTON – Adam J. Bonito, of Boston, Mass., pleaded guilty today to a one-count information charging him with conspiracy to interfere with the fair housing rights of two Arab-Muslim families living in Revere, Mass., during late 2004 and early 2005.
Bonito is the third co-conspirator to plead guilty to the bias-motivated crime. Christopher D. Giaquinto pleaded guilty on Oct. 10, 2008, to the same criminal charge and a third co-conspirator pleaded guilty earlier in the month to a juvenile delinquency charge arising out of the same bias-motivated acts of vandalism.
Bonito, now 21, was 17-years-old when he and his co-defendants repeatedly vandalized and damaged vehicles that were parked in front of the duplex home shared by two Arab-Muslim families in September 2004 and then again on four separate occasions in January and again in March 2005. Giaquinto, also now 21, was also 17-years-old when he and Bonito, along with other conspirators not named in the information, vandalized and damaged a van parked outside the victims’ home on Sept. 19, 2004, breaking a windshield and several windows and damaging the body of the van.
Both defendants admitted that they conspired to vandalize the van belonging to one of the residents in order to interfere with the housing rights of the families because of their race, religion and national origin. On four subsequent occasions during January and March 2005, Bonito and another conspirator vandalized and broke the windows of a different van parked in front of the residence that they believed belonged to the same victim, but which in fact belonged to another Muslim family living in the same duplex. Both families eventually moved from their homes.
Bonito and Giaquinto each face a maximum sentence of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, one year of supervised release, and an unspecified amount of restitution to be paid to the victims, who suffered significant property damage.
"Tolerance is a core American value," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Grace Chung Becker. "It is vital that we vigorously pursue cases like this, where the basic right to live peacefully and without fear in one’s own home has been infringed. The protection of the rights of Arabs and Muslims, like the rights of all individuals victimized because of their race, religion or national origin, remains one of our highest priorities at the Department of Justice."
"Our nation’s foundation is built on the principles of freedom," said Michael J. Sullivan, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. "We stand ready to defend and protect each and every citizen and visitor from crimes motivated by ignorance and intolerance and based on hate, harassment and intimidation."
After an investigation that remained open for four years, new evidence was discovered last year that led to the three guilty pleas.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Civil Rights Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorneys offices around the country have investigated more than 800 incidents involving violence, threats, vandalism and arson against Arab-Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, South-Asian Americans and other people perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin.
The incidents have ranged from telephone, Internet, mail, and face-to-face threats to vandalism and minor assaults to deadly attacks, arson and bombings directed at homes, businesses, and places of worship. In addition to these three guilty pleas in Boston, federal charges have been brought against 43 other defendants with 37 convictions thus far. Federal law enforcement authorities have also assisted numerous local prosecutions.
The case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by S. Theodore Merritt, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Unit in the District of Massachusetts, and Barry Kowalski, Special Legal Counsel, Criminal Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.