FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 28, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
ZACHARY J. ROLNIK SENTENCED ON CONVICTION OF FEDERAL HATE CRIME
WASHINGTON, D.C.- Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph F. Boyd Jr. and the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts announced today that 40-year old Zachary J. Rolnik of Hanover, Massachusetts, was sentenced to two months in prison and assessed a $5,000 fine.
Rolnik pled guilty in federal district court on June 6, 2002, to interfering with the civil rights of Dr. James J. Zogby of Washington, D.C., the president of the Arab-American Institute, a national organization that advocates for Arab-Americans.
Rolnik admitted placing a telephone call to Dr. Zogby in Washington on the morning of September 12, 2001, and leaving a voice mail message in which he threatened to kill Dr. Zogby and his children because of Dr. Zogby's role in encouraging others to participate in the political process and the enjoyment of federal benefits without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.
"As we approach the one-year anniversary of the terrible events of September 11, this case is a reminder that the federal government will not tolerate violence based on religion or ethnicity," said Ralph F. Boyd Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "The Department of Justice will do everything in its power to ensure that people of all backgrounds and beliefs live in this nation free of the threat of violence or harassment."
"Targeting someone with threats of unprovoked violence is unacceptable in any circumstance," stated U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan. "When it is done simply because of someone's ethnicity or religion, it is even more repulsive and unconscionable."
This case is one of ten federal prosecutions initiated nationwide since the events of September 11th involving threats or acts of violence against persons who are, or were perceived to be, Arab or Muslim. The United States Department of Justice also has been coordinating with state and local authorities, who have initiated over 70 prosecutions of such incidents under state statutes.
There have been guilty pleas in four other federal cases where threats were made to persons because of their perceived nationality. Thomas Iverson pled guilty to violating 18 U.S.C § 844 for telephoning a bomb threat on September 29, 2001, against a Jordanian American liquor store in Beloit, Wisconsin. Iverson was sentenced to 27 months incarceration on April 12, 2002.
Joe Luis Montez pled guilty to violating 47 U.S.C. § 223, by placing telephone calls on September 17, 2001, in Hewitt, Texas, threatening Sikhs employed at a truck stop. Montez was sentenced to 2 years probation and a $500 fine on January 30, 2002.
Justin Scott-Priestly Bolen pled guilty on February 6, 2002, to violating one count of 42 U.S.C. § 3631, for interfering with the housing rights of a Pakistani-American family in Fenton, Michigan, by leaving a threatening message on its answering machine on October 10, 2001. Bolen was sentenced on May 14, 2002, to 10 months incarceration.
Wesley Fritts pled guilty to a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 876 and 2332 in Madison, Wisconsin for an anthrax hoax letter mailed to an Arab American restaurant. Fritts was sentenced to 21 months incarceration on May 13, 2002.
Other successful federal criminal civil rights prosecutions have addressed acts of violence. In Salt Lake City, James Herrick was sentenced to 51 months incarceration on January 7, 2002, after pleading guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 245. Herrick set fire to a Pakistani restaurant in Salt Lake City on September 13, 2001.
Patrick Cunningham awaits sentencing in Seattle, Washington, after pleading guilty on May 9, 2002, to attempting to set fire to automobiles and shooting at worshipers at a mosque in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 247.
Meanwhile, federal charges are pending against five defendants in three other cases, alleging that the victims were targeted because of their perceived race, nationality, or religion.
Jason and Travis Kitts were charged in Knoxville, Tennessee, under 18 U.S.C. § 245 with assaulting the Indian-American resident managers of a motel on September 24, 2001.
Irving David Rubin and Earl Leslie Krugel, members of the Jewish Defense League, have been indicted in Los Angeles for conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. §§ 844 and 2332 and 18 U.S.C. §§ 922 and 924, by conspiring to bomb a mosque and the California office of United States Representative Darrell Issa.
Finally, Charles D. Franklin was indicted on April 17, 2002, for crashing a pick-up truck into a Tallahassee, Florida mosque in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 247.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston, the Criminal Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and the FBI worked together to investigate and prosecute this matter.