By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 12, 2008
A retired Foreign Service officer was sentenced yesterday to one year in prison for making threats against Arab American Institute President James Zogby and other employees there.
W. Patrick Syring, 50, who served two tours in Beirut during his 25-year State Department career, pleaded guilty to violating civil rights laws. The charges stem from messages he left at AAI in the midst of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
"The only good Arab is a dead Arab," Syring said in a profanity-laden July 2006 voice-mail message delivered to AAI, which promotes Arab American participation in elections and policy issues.
After federal prosecutors in the District accused him of intimidating the workers based on their national origin, Syring sent an incendiary message to a television station where Zogby had been interviewed. In the March 2008 e-mail, Syring repeated some of the language from his phone call and accused Zogby of "promoting the interest of Hezbollah, Hamas and Arab terror."
The move prompted the government to withdraw its initial plea offer of no prison time, according to court records.
Earlier this year, after the latter incident, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly declared Syring in violation of the terms of his release and ordered him to report to the D.C. jail, where he has spent the last four months. Under the terms of yesterday's sentence, the Arlington resident also must perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $10,000 fine.
"There is no room in our society for the intolerance of other races or national origins, particularly by those who hold positions in the government," said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor.
David Schertler, a lawyer for Syring, said his client has "accepted full responsibility for his actions."