A 74-year-old man who owned multiple firearms and ammunition has been sentenced to 30 months in jail after sending bomb threat letters to pro-LGBTQ+ campaigners.
Robert Fehring was sentenced on Wednesday (3 August) after pleading guilty in February to one count of mailing threatening communications, according to Buzzfeed News.
The retired USA high school teacher had reportedly been arrested in December 2021 after sending at least 60 anonymous threats to Pride Month organisers, government officials, and other pro-LGBTQ+ individuals over the course of eight years.
He began his campaign of hatred in 2013 when he targeted New York’s Long Island and Manhattan institutions and advocates. He made various worrying warnings, including threatening to bomb a Pride parade in Long Island town of Huntington and plant explosives on a ferry taking people to Fire Island.
“ALL OF YOU SHOULD BE SHOT, HUNG, EXTERMINATED,” he wrote in a particularly disgusting letter to the owners of New York City’s pro-LGBTQ+ bar the Stonewall Inn. “WE WILL BLOW UP/BURN YOUR ESTABLISHMENTS DOWN.”
“WE WILL SHOOT THOSE WHO FREQUENT YOUR DENS OF FILTH, S**T, SCUM AND PERVERSION,” the letter continued before asking the owners to catch HIV and “JUST F***ING DIE!!”
Fehring also used doctored newspapers to send threatening letters, including one in 2021 addressed to the LGBTQ+ CEO of Newsday that contained photographs of a local Pride event, with a caption below reading “ONLY 350 UNNATURAL PERVERTS LESBOS & F****TS SHOW UP!!”
One of the six victims to speak at the sentencing was gay activist David Kilmnick, who said being sent targeted threats for who you are “changes you”.
“You have no luxury of safety – even doing the most mundane daily chores,” he continued. “From the first time I received one of his ‘anonymous’ letters [threatening] my life due to being an LGBT advocate and fighting for the rights and safety of our community, I no longer felt safe going to get the mail, taking out the garbage and even starting my car each day.”
After a search warrant was made in November 2021, FBI agents found several stolen Pride flags, two loaded shotguns along with nearly 400 rounds of ammunition, two stun guns, and a stamped envelope containing a dead bird that he had reportedly planned to send to a pro-LGBTQ+ attorney.
He was eventually arrested after a criminal complaint was filed in federal court, revealing the disturbing contents of his letters. In a statement after Fehring’s arrest, NYC Pride executive director Sandra Pérez thanked the Justice Department for investigating the situation, adding: “We are cooperating in any way we can, and we remain committed to the safety and well-being of the LGBTQIA+ community.”
According to Fehring himself, he marked each letter’s envelope with a “confidential stamp” to ensure the letters were taken seriously by recipients.
“The fact that the defendant sent his threats and then appears at the above-described locations while he was the owner of multiple firearms and ammunition is particularly serious,” the prosecution said in a sentencing memo. “The defendant has a First Amendment right to hold bigoted beliefs; he does not have a right to threaten people based on his bigoted beliefs,” the prosecution added.
While prosecutors initially aimed for Robert Fehring to serve a total of 51 months, this was cut on appeal after attorneys argued his history of physical and mental health issues would make incarceration particularly difficult for him at his age. He is required to surrender to prison by 2 September.
“Today’s sentence makes clear that threats to kill and commit acts of violence against the LGBTQ+ community will be met with significant punishment,” said attorney Breon Peace.