Virginia man gets 60 months in prison for sending threats to Arab American Institute
© Getty Images

A Virginia man was sentenced on Thursday to 60 months in prison for committing a hate crime after he sent threatening messages to the Washington, D.C.-based Arab American Institute (AAI).

William Syring, 61, from Arlington, Va., sent more than 700 emails to AAI employees between 2012 and 2017, including five death threats, according to a news release from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Syring previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to sending threatening emails to AAI employees. Prosecutors argued that he used nearly identical language to send new threats in 2017.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Many AAI employees lived in fear that Syring would follow through on his threats and physically harm them. They further testified to the toll it took on them personally and their families and loved ones,” the DOJ said in the release, citing witness testimony.

The Justice Department said that Syring continued to send messages because of the race and national origin of AAI employees, threatening them because “of their efforts to encourage Arab Americans to participate in political and civic life in the United States.”

Syring was convicted in May on all 14 counts in his indictment, including seven hate crime charges and seven interstate threats charges.

“Investigating hate crimes is one of the FBI’s highest criminal priorities; these hateful acts are not only an attack on the victim, but are meant to intimidate an entire community,” Timothy Slater, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington field office, said in the statement. “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.”

The AAI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan leadership organization based in D.C. Its founder, James J. Zogby, shared news of Syring’s sentencing Friday on Twitter.

“For over a decade he’s tormented us w/ racist threats of genocide against Arab Americans. We are relieved, but nothing will give us back those days when the threats would come. #HateCrime,” Zogby wrote.

The Hill has reached out to the institute for comment.