PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Peter Fratus, 39, of West Dennis, Massachusetts, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with sending threatening emails to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 875, which prohibits transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce.
After his arrest, Fratus made his initial appearance today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, prior to his transfer to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will also be filing a motion seeking detention of the defendant pending trial.
The criminal complaint in this case alleges that on June 6, 2020, the defendant sent two emails to the Philadelphia Police Commissioner’s email address. Both emails allegedly contained racist, offensive, and threatening language, with one communication asking where Commissioner Outlaw lives. The complaint further states that an investigation by the FBI determined the originator of the emails was Fratus and forensic evidence reinforced that Fratus sent both emails.
“As alleged in the criminal complaint, Peter Fratus’ racist threats towards Commissioner Outlaw were vile and disturbing,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “We take such threats very seriously, and let this be a warning to anyone who might feel the urge to fire off an online threat directed at a public official: we will trace your digital footprint, track you down and hold you accountable.”
“While the First Amendment gives us the right to express our own opinions, violent physical threats are certainly not protected speech,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Philadelphia Division. “When someone threatens the life of another person, it’s a clear red flag and we have to take their despicable words at face value. Today’s arrest of Peter Fratus demonstrates the FBI’s resolve to investigate and bring to justice anyone who crosses this line.”
If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert Livermore.
An indictment, information, or criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.