WASHINGTON – U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz today sentenced Jeffrey Shifler, age 42, of Maugansville, Md., to 51 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for interference with attendance at public schools and interference with housing, in connection with threats he made against African-American students at two Hagerstown high schools, and against an African-American Hagerstown City Council member, the Justice Department announced.
“Criminal acts of racial bigotry have no place in our welcoming society,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the federal laws prohibiting hate crimes.”
“Jeffrey Shifler terrorized individual victims and threatened an entire community. Thanks to extraordinary work by the FBI, Jeffrey Shifler’s campaign of hatred was brought to an end and he has been held accountable for his crimes,” stated United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “We will vigorously investigate and prosecute hate crimes and make certain that the criminals who commit them are punished.”
According to his plea agreement, Shifler was a police officer with the Hagerstown Police Department for about 16 years. On Nov. 3, 2003, Shifler was terminated for cause. Shifler became employed as a police officer with the Boonsboro Police Department.
On Nov. 29, 2005, Shifler anonymously called the Washington County Board of Education, stated, “There are two guns at North [Hagerstown] High and two guns at South [Hagerstown] High,” and followed with a violent racial threat. The schools were locked down, limiting access into and out of the schools as well as internal student and staff mobility, resulting in substantial interference with public school operations.
On Jan. 9, 2006, Shifler anonymously called North Hagerstown High School and falsely reported that there were guns in the school. On Jan. 10, 2006, Shifler anonymously called South Hagerstown High School, threatening to take African-American hostages and kill them. On Jan. 24, 2006, Shifler anonymously called E. Russell Hicks Middle School in Hagerstown and stated, “David and Jimmy have a .22 in their locker and are going to use it on teachers, then they are going to go to Western Heights [Middle School] and use it on Rupenthal [the school principal],” or words to that effect. On all three occasions, the schools were locked down, resulting in substantial interference with public educational operations.
Shifler further admitted that on Jan. 31, 2006, he anonymously called the home of Hagerstown City Council member Alesia Parson-McBean, stating in part “We’re the KKK. We’re about to take you down and burn your house.” Ms. Parson-McBean contacted “911” for emergency assistance.
In 2004 and 2005, Alesia Parson-McBean and her supporters who are members of the African-American community in Hagerstown received anonymous, racially charged letters from Shifler. The letters, one of which was written on photocopied Hagerstown Department of Police letterhead, threatened harm to Ms. Parson-McBean and her supporters if she did not withdraw from the City Council election.
The case was investigated by Special Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Mark Blumberg and Deputy Chief Bobbi Bernstein of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning.