Riverside Woman’s Antisemitic Threats Terrorized A Jewish Family: DOJ

Date:

A 59-year-old Riverside woman was sentenced to 32 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to knowingly and intentionally transmitting a threatening communication in interstate commerce, the United States Department of Justice announced Friday.

Melanie Harris was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roy K. Altman during a hearing in Miami.

“Defendant Melanie Harris’ antisemitic threats terrorized a Jewish family,” stated U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida.

According to the facts admitted at her change-of-plea hearing, Harris made multiple calls on Oct. 3, 2022 to victim 1’s cell phone and left four separate threatening voice mails with intent to communicate a true threat and with the knowledge that the communications would be seen as true threats.

In one of the four voicemails, Harris said “I’ll cut your f—— head off k—.” The term has been used as an anti-Jewish slur.

Neither victim 1 nor his wife, victim 2, knew the identity of the person calling with the threatening and harassing calls and voicemails, nor did they know where the calls were coming from because Harris concealed her phone number from being detected by a caller identification system, leaving the victims bereft of any knowledge of who and where the harasser was, putting them in constant fear for their lives until Harris’ arrest in March 2023.

The calls originated from Riverside, where Harris lived at the time, and were received by victim 1’s phone in the Southern District of Florida.

For over four years, Harris harassed and threatened three victims by making more than 240 calls to victim 1, leaving messages and engaging in conversations in which she unleashed antisemitic hate and direct threats against him, his family and Jews in general.

In these calls and voicemails, Harris made incessant references to the congregants murdered in the October 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Harris’ four-year onslaught of harassment and threats of the victims was compounded by the fact that until July 2018, victim 1 had been the executive director of the Tree of Life for over 20 years while his wife and her adult child were all longtime members of and closely associated with the synagogue.

On the same day Harris began her calls to victim 1, she also began calling the Tree of Life, leaving virtually identical hate-filled antisemitic messages referencing the deaths of elderly worshipers.

The FBI’s Miami Area Corruption Task Force, which also investigates civil rights violations, investigated the case. FBI Pittsburgh, FBI Los Angeles Riverside Resident Agency and the Riverside Police Department assisted in the investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward N. Stamm and Nardia Haye prosecuted the case, which was indicted by Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry C. Wallace, Jr.

“Melanie Harris sent threatening communications to a Jewish family using vile and inflammatory language. The nature of her threats of violence towards the victims and their faith were clearly meant to evoke a climate of fear and intimidation. Such conduct cannot be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri of the FBI Miami Field Office.

“Violence through words or actions is unacceptable and the FBI will continue to do everything we can to identify, arrest, and bring to justice those who engage in similar conduct,” Veltri said.

In September 2022, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland started the United Against Hate program to convene local forums that connect community groups to federal, state and local law enforcement to increase community understanding and reporting of hate crimes, build trust between law enforcement and communities and create and strengthen alliances between law enforcement and other government partners and community groups to combat unlawful acts of hate. More information on the United Against Hate program can be found at justice.gov/hatecrimes/spotlight/united-against-hate.

Anyone with information about a possible threat or believing to be a victim of a hate crime was encouraged to contact 911 and the FBI at fbi.gov/tips or at 800-225-5324.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share post:

Subscribe to The Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle

Popular

More like this
Related

Kindergartners say goodbye to Soboba Tribal Preschool

The 23 little ones who will be heading off to first grade in the fall got a grand send-off with a graduation ceremony at the Soboba Sports Complex June 6.

California voters lose a shot at checking state and local tax hikes at the polls

The California Supreme Court on Thursday took the rare step of removing a measure from the November ballot that would have made it harder to raise taxes, siding with Gov. Gavin Newsom by ruling the change would have upended the way government works.

Riverside County shelters offer free adoptions through “IndePETdence Days”

Starting June 20, the Riverside County Animal Services is launching "IndePETdence...

Drift Smoke Over Southwest Riverside County Coming From Camp Pendleton

Already smokey skies were getting even hazier Thursday in Southwest Riverside County as a vegetation fire burned at Camp Pendleton.