HOUSTON–The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced today that a federal grand jury in Houston returned a six count indictment charging a 33 year-old man with calling in bomb threats to two Houston synagogues, a municipal courthouse and a private business.

Dante Phearse, of Houston, has been charged with two civil rights violations for threat of force with an explosive device against two synagogues, which allegedly obstructed 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 harms to the members.  According to the indictment, on the same day, Phearse also called in and threatened to bomb the City of Houston Municipal Courts building and a private business.

If convicted, Phearse faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each civil rights violation, and a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count of making bomb threats over the phone.  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.

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