WASHINGTON –The Justice Department announced today that Sonia Tabizada, age 36, of San Jacinto, California, was sentenced to time served of 15 months and 13 days for intentionally obstructing persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs by threatening to bomb the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, DC, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 247.
In May 2019, school officials announced that Visitation Prep, the oldest Catholic school for girls in the country, would begin publishing same-sex wedding announcements in its alumni magazine to advance its teaching that “we are all children of God ... worthy of respect and love.” According to the plea agreement, Tabizada learned of this announcement and made multiple calls threatening violence in response to the school’s decision. On May 15, 2019, Tabizada left a voice message stating that she was going to burn and bomb the church. Tabizada also stated that she was going to kill school officials and students. Several minutes later, Tabizada left a second voice mail stating that she was going to blow up the school and warned that she would commit “terrorism.”
“No school and no child should be subjected to death threats, because of their religious beliefs ” said Pamela S. Karlan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, “and the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute violent threats motivated by bias.”
“The citizens of the District of Columbia and our country are entitled to freely exercise their religious beliefs and to be free from threats of violence based on bias—be it against religion, race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is committed to protecting the civil rights of all our citizens and will do so by vigorously enforcing both federal and local hate crime laws” said Channing D. Phillips, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.
“The free exercise of religion is one of our nation’s most sacred Constitutional rights," said Steven M. D'Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. "The FBI will continue to prioritize threats of violence and civil rights violations to ensure every citizen and community is free to exercise all of their protected liberties without fear and threats of violence.”
Tabizada was also sentenced to two years of supervised release with special conditions. If Tabizada wants to leave the country she must contact the Court and request a modification of the special conditions.
The case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kendra Briggs of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia’s Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Michael J. Songer.