Posted by Tess Waggoner on May 09, 2019 in Blog

From May 3 to May 7, 2019, current and former employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) were called to testify in the federal hate crime trial, United States v. William Patrick Syring, at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The defendant, who was indicted in February 2018, was found guilty today on all fourteen counts, including seven federal hate crime charges. Four of these charges involved threats against AAI employees because of their race or national origin and because of their employment at AAI, and the remaining three involved threats against AAI staff because of their efforts to encourage Arab Americans to participate in civic and political life. Additionally, he was found guilty on seven counts of transmitting threats via interstate commerce.

The trial was focused on five communications sent in 2017 that threatened the lives of Dr. James Zogby, President and co-Founder of AAI, and employees of AAI because of their Arab American heritage or their work to register Arab Americans to vote and encourage the direct participation of Arab Americans in civic and political life. The threats contained messages like “The only good Arab American is a dead Arab American,” “Death to all Arab Americans,” and “America will never be safe until America is cleansed of [Dr. Zogby] and his evil political agenda of genocide.”

“No community should be the target of hate crime because of who they are or the work they do. We are pleased that the jury found the defendant guilty on all charges,”

said Maya Berry, Executive Director of AAI.

“While the past several years and months in particular have been challenging, these threats of violence aimed at silencing a leading voice for Arab American civic and political engagement are regrettably not new. For decades, Dr. Zogby has endured such challenges to his safety and that of his family, and staff in order to continue to walk the long road toward human and civil rights both in the United States and in Palestine.”

She continued,

“We are thankful for the Department of Justice attorneys on this case, Civil Rights Division Senior Legal Counsel Mark Blumberg and Trial Attorney Nicholas Reddick, for their dedication in the pursuit of justice. We are also thankful for Special Agent Keith Palli with the Federal Bureau of Investigation for his commitment to justice and for his thorough investigation. The outcome of the trial only serves to reinforce the vital role that AAI plays in fostering and promoting the civic and political engagement of Arab Americans. We are undeterred in advancing our mission and look forward to getting back to that important work.”

The defendant previously pleaded guilty to similar charges in 2008, and was sentenced to 12 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of post-release supervision, 100 hours of community service, and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. Despite assurances that he would not engage in this behavior in the future, he resumed sending e-mails to AAI staff in 2012 and over the course of five years he sent 735 e-mails to Dr. James Zogby, Maya Berry, and employees of AAI.

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Founded in 1985, the Arab American Institute (AAI) is a nonprofit organization committed to the civic and political empowerment of Americans of Arab descent. AAI provides policy, research and public affairs services to support a broad range of community activities. For more information please visit aaiusa.org.

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