A federal grand jury in Houston has returned a six-count indictment against Dante Phearse, 33, for calling in bomb threats to two Houston synagogues, a municipal courthouse and a private business. The announcement is being made jointly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Phearse, of Houston, is charged with two civil rights violations for threats called into two synagogues. Specifically, Phearse allegedly obstructed, by threat of force with an explosive device, members of the synagogues from enjoying the free exercise of their religious beliefs. Phearse is also charged with four counts of using an instrument of interstate commerce to communicate a threat to kill and injure people and destroy a building by means of an explosive device.
The indictment alleges that on April 30, 2013, Phearse telephoned two different synagogues in Houston – Congregation Beth Israel and Congregation Or Ami – and left voicemails threatening to bomb the buildings and cause other harm to the members. Also on that day, Phearse allegedly called in and threatened to bomb the City of Houston Municipal Courts building and a private business.
If convicted, Phearse faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each civil rights violation and up to 10 years for making bomb threats over the telephone.
Phearse has been in custody since his arrest. He is expected to make an initial appearance on the indictment in the near future, at which time the U.S. expects to request his continued detention pending trial.
This case is being investigated by the FBI in cooperation with the Houston Police Department.
Assistant United States Attorneys Ruben Perez and Joe Magliolo of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorneys Nicholas Murphy and Saeed Mody of the Civil Rights Division in cooperation with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.