WASHINGTON - W. Patrick Syring, a former foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Washington, D.C., to federal civil rights charges for threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin. Syring is scheduled to be sentenced on June 30, 2008.
During his guilty plea hearing, Syring admitted that he sent a series of threatening email and voicemail communications to six employees of AAI in July 2006, that he intended to interfere with his victims’ employment, and that he sought to intimidate the victims because of their race as Arab- Americans and their national origin as Lebanese-Americans. AAI is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that promotes Arab-American participation in the U.S. electoral system. In addition to pleading guilty to violating a federal civil rights statute that prohibits race- or national origin-based interference with employment, Syring pleaded guilty to a felony count of sending threatening communications in interstate commerce. Syring faces a maximum sentence of six years imprisonment.
According to the indictment, Syring sent four emails and three voicemails to AAI employees from approximately July 17 to 29, 2006. 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 US Department of State in July 2007.
"Threatening others and attempting to interfere with their employment because of their race or national origin is offensive to our nation’s fundamental values," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department is committed to vigorously prosecuting the federal laws that prohibit such violent threats."
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 163 defendants in 123 cases involving bias-motivated crimes.