Dante Phearse, 33, has entered a plea of guilty to calling in a bomb threat to Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue in Houston. The announcement is being made jointly by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
Phearse pleaded guilty to the civil rights violation of threatening to bomb a synagogue and to making a telephone bomb threat. As part of his plea, he admitted that on April 30, 2013, he willfully obstructed members of Congregation Beth Israel from enjoying the free exercise of their religious beliefs by threat of force with an explosive device. Phearse also admitted to using an instrument of interstate commerce to communicate a threat to kill and injure people and to destroy a building by means of an explosive device.
As a result of the above threats, the school at Congregation Beth Israel was closed for a day and extra security was hired to guard the synagogue and school, thus obstructing the synagogues’ members in the enjoyment of the free exercise of their religious beliefs.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt accepted the plea today and has sentencing for July 7, 2014. At that time, Phearse faces a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison for the civil rights violation and a maximum sentence of 10 years for making bomb threats over the telephone.
The FBI investigated the case with the assistance of the Houston Police Department. Civil Rights Division Trial Attorneys Nicholas Murphy and Saeed Mody and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruben Perez and Joe Magliolo are prosecuting in cooperation with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.