Dante Phearse, 33, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt to serve 33 months in prison for 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 was further ordered to pay $13,000 in restitution and will serve three years of supervised release following completion of his prison term.
On April 28, 2014, 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, Phearse 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 Phearse’s 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.
The FBI investigated the case with the assistance of the Houston Police Department. Trial Attorneys Nicholas Murphy and Saeed Mody of the Civil Rights Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ruben Perez and Joe Magliolo are prosecuting in cooperation with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.