Man sent death threats to police commissioner in PA, feds say. He’s going to prison

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A man from Massachusetts recently was sentenced to four years in prison for sending racist, misogynistic threats to a Pennsylvania police commissioner, the Department of Justice announced in a Jan. 19 news release. He was convicted in September 2021 after a three-day trial on charges of transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce.

Peter Fratus, 40, is accused of sending emails containing “racist, offensive and threatening” language to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw in June 2020, following a swell of reported animosity against police officers after the murder of George Floyd, according to court documents.

Floyd, 46, died while in police custody and his death sparked an avalanche of protests across the nation. He died after now-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than 9 minutes, as three other officers chose not to intervene. In June 2021, Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison.

Outlaw is the first Black woman to lead the 6,000-member police force in Philadelphia, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, and assumed her position as commissioner on Feb. 10, 2020.

Several months after Outlaw took her position, court documents show she received emails in early June from a person who was later identified as Fratus. According to court indictment records, the emails contained threats to “hang and kill [the] victim,” and used a slew of racist, antisemitic and misogynistic slurs.

Furthermore, investigators obtained voicemail records from Comcast and Apple from June 8, 2020, in which Fratus is accused of leaving messages on Outlaw’s phone and “threatening to slit the public official’s throat.”

During an investigative interview with Fratus on June 8, 2020, he initially denied sending threatening messages to Outlaw, but later admitted he sent the messages and told officials that he “crossed the line.”

According to the DOJ, Fratus has a “long history of sending racist, misogynistic threats and assaulting law enforcement officers.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that while Fratus was being questioned about the threatening messages, he was on probation for a 2019 offense during which he smeared blood on a Christmas store and threatened to rape and kill the police officers who took him into custody.

Fratus’ mother told the court, however, that her son wasn’t a racist — he just gets blackouts, the Inquirer reported.

“He’s not a racist,” his mother, Elizabeth Faiella, told the court, according to the Inquirer. “But when he’s in a blackout he hates Jews … he hates Muslims. It’s a terrible disease.”

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Fratus accepted treatment for alcoholism, achieved 18 months of sobriety, and asked for Outlaw’s forgiveness.

U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams and Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, shared their thoughts on Fratus’ sentence in the news release.

“Peter Fratus apparently thought he could make violent physical threats with impunity, but today’s sentencing proves how wrong he was,” Maguire said. “Threats to life are most certainly not protected speech, and the FBI will continue to work with our partners to hold accountable anyone who crosses the line and commits these criminal acts.”

McClatchy News reached out to Fratus’ attorney Joseph Schultz for comment and had not received a response as of Jan. 20.

United States District Judge Gerald J. Pappert ruled on Fratus’ case, which was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Philadelphia Police Department and the Dennis, Massachusetts, Police Department.

“Sending threats online is a serious federal crime,” Williams said. “Whether the victim is a private citizen or a prominent civic leader.”

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