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Retired Foreign Service officer sentenced to prison for hate crimes and threats

By CLARENCE WILLIAMS | The Washington Post | Published: August 15, 2019

WASHINGTON — A retired Foreign Service officer was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison for committing hate crimes and delivering threats to the president and employees of the Arab American Institute, federal prosecutors said.

The sentencing of Patrick Syring, 61, followed a conviction on 14 counts in May for threatening staffers based on their race and national origin, threatening protected political activity and transmitting threats via interstate commerce, officials said in a statement.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Syring sent over 700 emails to employees of the group between 2012 and 2017, including five death threats, the statement said.

Syring had pleaded guilty in 2008 to sending threats to the employees at the organization, officials said.

Syring served two tours in Beirut during his 25-year State Department career. The 2008 plea was related to messages he left with the AAI during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

During one profanity-filled voicemail message in July 2006, Syring said "the only good Arab is a dead Arab." He later sent emails accusing the organization's president, James 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.

"The Department of Justice will continue to fight to preserve the basic rights of people to live, work, and speak in their communities without the fear of hostility based on racism," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in the statement.

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