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Press Release

Texas Man Charged with Federal Hate Crime for Making Threats Against Employees of Sikh Organization

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A Texas man has been charged with a federal hate crime and for making interstate threats against the employees of a Sikh nonprofit organization.

Bhushan Athale, 48, of Dallas, was charged by complaint with one count of interfering with federally protected activities through the threatened use of a dangerous weapon and one count of transmitting an interstate threat to injure another person.

According to the criminal complaint, on or about Sept. 17, 2022, Athale called the main number of an organization that advocates for the civil rights of Sikh individuals within the United States. Over the next hour, Athale left seven voicemails expressing extreme hatred toward Sikh individuals working at this same organization and threatening to injure or kill these individuals with a razor. Athale’s voicemails, which were filled with violent imagery and obscenity, contained references to places, people and tenets that are particularly significant within the Sikh religion. Among other things, Athale stated his intention to “catch” the Sikhs at the organization, forcibly “shave” the “top and bottom hair” of these individuals, use a “razor” to forcibly “cut” these individuals’ hair and “make” them bald, forcibly “make” them smoke and eat tobacco and “show [them] the heaven.”

In March, Athale again called the same Sikh organization and left two more voicemails. In these voicemails, Athale again used violent imagery to express his hatred toward Sikhs as well as Muslims, suggesting, among other things, that the Indian Government and Mumbai Police should “catch them and beat their ass” and “f*ck these rascals’ mothers.” 

The investigation reflects that Athale has a long history of making religious-based comments and threats, such as when he previously used a professional networking site to express to a former co-worker that he “hate[d] Pakistan” and “hate[d] Muslims,” and he told the co-worker “I hate you, I just don’t know how to kill your whole family including you?  Tell me???  I will figure it out […] Probably I will hire a Jew, they will be most happy.”

If convicted, Athale faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for interfering with federally protected activities and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for transmitting an interstate threat. Both charges also carry a penalty of up to a $250,000 fine. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey and Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs of the FBI Philadelphia Field Office made the announcement.

The FBI Philadelphia Field Office investigated the case.   

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara A. Aliabadi and Jason M. Richardson for the District of New Jersey and Trial Attorney Eric Peffley of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated June 5, 2024

Topic
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 24-701