Daniel George Fisher, 57, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty today to a federal hate crime for writing and mailing a threatening letter to an Islamic Center. Fisher was charged with obstructing, by threat of force, the free exercise of religious beliefs.
The plea was announced by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division; U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger of the District of Minnesota; and Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division.
According to his guilty plea, in September 2015, Fisher wrote and mailed an anonymous letter to the Tawfiq Islamic Center (TIC), located in Minneapolis. In the letter, the defendant threatened to “blow up your building with all you immigrants in it.” The letter also included statements demonstrating strong anti-Muslim animus. Fisher subsequently admitted to the FBI that he wrote the letter to scare and intimidate the TIC’s Muslim members.
“America protects the free exercise of religion for all people in every community,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta. “Threats of violence that target religious communities violate federal law; corrode the ideals of our democracy; and threaten the foundation of an inclusive, free and open society. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute hate crimes that target people because of where they worship.”
“Threatening to blow up a mosque is simply un-American,” said U.S. Attorney Luger. “It is a bedrock principle of our country, enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution, that all people are free to practice their religion of choice. Tens of thousands of law-abiding Muslims do so in Minnesota. The U.S. Attorney's Office and FBI will not allow any resident of our state to have that most basic freedom jeopardized by the threat of violence.”
“Today’s guilty plea affirms that hate crimes directed at our communities based on their religion will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Thornton. “We will continue to aggressively investigate and bring to justice those who threaten violence against our citizens who choose to exercise their religious freedom as protected by our Constitution.”
U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright of the District of Minnesota accepted Fisher’s plea. Fisher faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI’s Minneapolis Division investigated the matter. Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Munoz-Kaphing of the District of Minnesota and Trial Attorney Olimpia Michel of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.