WASHINGTON - W. Patrick Syring, a former foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State, was sentenced today in federal court in Washington, D.C., on federal civil rights charges for threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin. Syring was sentenced by the Honorable Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to two concurrent sentences of 12 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of post-release supervision, 100 hours of community service and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
On June 12, 2008, Syring, age 50, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge for race- and national origin-based interference with the victims’ federally protected right to employment, and to a second charge for the interstate transmission of threatening communications. Syring admitted that in July 2006 he sent a series of threatening email and voicemail communications to six employees of AAI, a nonprofit organization that promotes Arab-American participation in the U.S. electoral system and public policy issues. Syring also admitted that he intended to intimidate the victims and interfere with their employment because of their race as Arab-Americans and their national origin as Lebanese-Americans.
The indictment to which Syring pleaded guilty charged that he sent four emails and three voicemails to AAI employees from approximately July 17 to 29, 2006. The emails included repeated use of threatening phrases. An additional email condemned AAI for a fatal shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in July 2006 that was committed by a lone gunman who had no affiliation with AAI.
A career foreign service officer and a resident of Arlington, Va., Syring retired from the U.S. Department of State in July 2007.
"Threats of violent hate crimes have an impact far greater than the impact on the individual victim," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "These are crimes against the fundamental ideals on which America was founded."
"There is no room in our society for the intolerance of other races or national origins, particularly by those who hold positions within the government," stated Jeffrey A. Taylor, U.S. Attorney for the Distict of Columbia. "This prosecution reflects our steadfast commitment to address violations of our civil rights laws."
This case was investigated by Special Agents Greg H. Bristol and Jay Greenberg of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Julieanne Himelstein for the District of Washington, D.C., along with Civil Rights Division Deputy Chief Mark Blumberg, Trial Attorney Karen Ruckert, and Special Legal Counsel Barry F. Kowalski, from the Department of Justice.
Prosecuting the perpetrators of bias-motivated crimes is a top priority of the Justice Department. Since 2001, the Civil Rights Division has convicted 166 defendants in 127 cases involving bias-motivated crimes.