Sunday, October 05, 2008

Threats bring 45 days in jail

Raleigh man's e-mail targeted Washington rights groups

Kristin Collins, Staff Writer
RALEIGH - A Raleigh man who made graphic threats against national Hispanic and Islamic advocacy organizations will serve 45 days in federal prison.

Christopher Michael Szaz, 42, also must perform 100 hours of community service with an Islamic or Hispanic group, receive treatment for alcohol addiction and remain under supervision for a year, according to the sentence imposed Wednesday by U.S. Magistrate Judge James E. Gates.

Szaz pleaded guilty Tuesday to two misdemeanor charges of sending threatening e-mail to the National Council of La Raza and the Council of American-Islamic Relations, both based in Washington.

Prosecutors said he sent two e-mail messages on June 8, 2007, threatening to bomb the CAIR office and an e-mail message to La Raza on July 27, 2007, threatening to kill employees.

Janet Murgu'a, president of La Raza, said the e-mail her group received included promises to "splay" their bodies and used derogatory terms to refer to Latinos.

Murgu'a said Wednesday that she hoped Szaz's prosecution would send a message to an increasingly hostile faction of people who oppose illegal immigration.

"I think they sit down at their keyboards and they think they can write anything to anyone," Murgu'a said. "The First Amendment does not protect death threats."

Szaz, a self-employed web designer, testified this week that he had a drinking problem and sent the messages while extremely intoxicated.

Szaz, who lives with his elderly mother, asked for house arrest so he could continue to care for her. The judge declined to forgo jail time, but gave him far less than the maximum one year and allowed him to report to prison on Oct. 20 so he could participate in early voting in the presidential election. or 919-829-4881


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