|Born||William Patrick Syring
August 30, 1957
Toledo, Ohio, United States
|Known for||Convicted of civil rights violations|
William Patrick Syring, who uses his middle name, Patrick, (born August 30, 1957 in Toledo, Ohio), is a retired American career diplomat who was convicted of threatening and violating the civil rights of James Zogby, the Arab-American president and founder, and other senior employees, of the Arab American Institute during the 2006 Lebanon War. Syring pleaded guilty to the charges June 12, 2008, was sentenced to one year in prison July 11, 2008, and was released early, in January 2009.
From 1993 to 1994, and from 1998 to 1999, Syring was consular/commercial officer at the United States Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. He was also posted to the United States Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1994-1998, and subsequently, to the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, Office of Economic Policy Analysis, among other assignments, at the United States Department of State.
Syring retired from the State Department in July 2007. His 2006 retirement application predated the seven anti-Arab and expletive-laced voice and email messages he sent to senior policy staff members of the Arab American Institute. Syring's retirement concluded a career of nearly 26 years at the State Department.
Syring sent three voice mails and four emails to the Arab American Institute in July 2006, during the 2006 Lebanon War. A Federal Grand Jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment on August 15, 2007, charging Syring with violation of Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 875(c), threatening messages in interstate commerce to injure an individual, and violation of Title 18 of the United States Code Section 245(b)(2)(C), by threat of force, to interfere with the civil rights of the founder and employees of the Arab American Institute.
Syring identified himself in the voice mails and emails he left at the headquarters of the Arab American Institute on July 17, 2006. From July 17, 2006 to July 29, 2006, Syring sent seven email and voice mail messages to the Arab American Institute headquarters offices from his home in suburban Virginia. The indictment claims Syring "did willfully intimidate and interfere with Arab American Institute employees because of their race and national origin", and "threatened to injure Arab American Institute employees".
Asked about Syring, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on August 16, 2007, "Let me just underline the seriousness with which the Secretary approaches the idea that the State Department should be a workplace that in no way, shape or form, tolerates discrimination or hateful language or any other action that would violate federal laws or regulations. It is just not condoned or acceptable in this department."
On August 16, 2007, the Arab American Institute issued a statement that said "The threats were both intimidating and frightening – and the fact that the defendant was a 20-year career officer at the Department of State made it of even greater concern."
Syring pleaded not guilty on August 30, 2007, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. On November 19, 2007, United States District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied a motion from Syring to dismiss the charges against him, ensuring that the case would go to trial. "Whether [the] Defendant's communications constituted a true threat," Kollar-Kotelly wrote, "is an issue properly left to the jury." In the memorandum opinion November 19, 2007, the judge added "the Court agrees with Defendant that on its face the Indictment does not present a compelling case. Nevertheless, even based on the meager context alleged in the Indictment, it is possible a reasonable jury could interpret Defendant's communications as 'a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.'" In an order filed December 14, 2007, Syring's trial was tentatively rescheduled to begin February 11, 2008, but was subsequently rescheduled.
On March 13, 2008, Syring sent an e-mail to a U.S. television network where Zogby had been interviewed, repeating some of the language of his earlier messages. " This e-mail prompted the Assistant United States Attorney for Civil Rights to withdraw a conditional plea offer of no prison time. Also, on March 20, 2008, United States District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly revoked Syring's pre-trial release; Syring was incarcerated for 111 days in the District of Columbia Department of Corrections prior to Syring's sentencing on July 11, 2008.
Syring pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges on June 12, 2008, was sentenced on July 11, 2008 to one year in prison, but was released from prison early in January 2009. His sentence also included a fine of US$10,000, paid in July 2008, three years post-release supervision completed on January 27, 2012, and 100 hours community service completed in April 2009.
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- Bureau of Prisons inmate locator
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- "Former U.S. diplomat gets year in prison for anti-Arab comments". Haaretz. July 12, 2008. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
- "Former Foreign Service Officer Sentenced on Federal Civil Rights Charges" (Press release). U.S. Department of Justice. July 11, 2008.