A retired Foreign Service officer was convicted Thursday of threatening Arab American Institute president James Zogby and other employees after a prior conviction and one-year prison sentence from 2008 for similar hate crimes against the same group.
W. Patrick Syring, 61, of Arlington, was found guilty by a federal jury in the District of threatening staffers based on their race and national origin, threatening protected political activity and transmitting threats via interstate commerce.
Jurors deliberated a day after a four-day trial before convicting Syring of all 14 counts. He faces a maximum of 42 years at sentencing Aug. 9, although federal guidelines will likely recommend less time.
Syring, who served two tours in Beirut during his 25-year State Department career, pleaded guilty in 2008 to violating civil rights laws related to messages he left with AAI during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
“The only good Arab is a dead Arab,” Syring said in a profanity-laden voice-mail message in July 2006, which he followed up with emails accusing Zogby of “promoting the interest of Hezbollah, Hamas and Arab terror” and stating, “Arabs are dogs” and “death to Lebanon and death to Arabs.”
Syring retired from the State Department in 2007.
After completing his sentence on his first conviction, Syring resumed his contacts with AAI employees, sending more than 700 emails from 2012 to 2017 containing nearly identical language and culminating in five death threats, prosecutors said.
“Threats aimed at individuals because of their race and national origin have no place in our society and violate federal civil rights laws,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a statement announcing the verdict.
AAI Executive Director Maya Berry said the group was pleased with the verdict and thanked the department. “No community should be the target of hate crime because of who they are or the work they do,” Berry said in a statement, adding that threats to Zogby “are regrettably not new.”
The verdict reinforced AAI’s work to promote civic and political engagement of Arab Americans, Berry said, adding, “We are undeterred in advancing our mission and look forward to getting back to that important work.”