WASHINGTON (CN) – Hate-filled voicemails and death threats terrorized employees of an Arab-American nonprofit for years, and the former State Department diplomat behind the harassment was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison.
It is the second time 61-year-old William Patrick Syring of Arlington, Virginia, has been found guilty by a federal jury for hate crimes. He was first charged and convicted in 2008 for the hate-filled and profanity-laden voicemails he left for employees of the Arab American Institute two years earlier. He also specifically targeted the organization’s president, James Zogby, with dubious emails that falsely claimed Zogby was connected to terrorist networks like Hamas and Hezbollah.
“The only good Arab is a dead Arab,” “Arabs are dogs,” and “death to Arabs,” were just a few of the racist messages Syring left for the institute in 2006. He retired from the State Department a year later but it would be another year still before he was convicted. He served a year for those crimes.
But old habits die hard and in 2012, Syring resumed targeting the nonprofit and its employees. Deluging staffers again, this time with more than 700 emails and at least five death threats, the ominous emails and vows like “death to Lebanon” made life nightmarish for staffers.
During testimony in court, employees said they were terrified Syring would make good on his threats and physically harm them. His haunting messages, they testified, caused fear to spread from themselves to members of their family and their friends.
In emails Syring sent to Zogby in 2017, the 25-year State Department veteran alleged Zogby “funded the genocide perpetrated by Mohamed Khweis,” a Virginia man who was captured on the Islamic State group’s battlefield in Syria battlefield in Syria a year earlier. Khweis was ultimately found guilty for providing material support to the terrorist group, also known as ISIS.
That smear was followed with several others, including false accusations that Zogby was somehow supportive of the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
“This sentencing demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to holding accountable those who seek to violate the civil rights of the people of our community through violent threats,” said Timothy Slater, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington, D.C. field office.
A representative from the Arab American Institute did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday. An attorney for Syring also did not immediately respond.