Metro Weekly

Man Who Threatened Violence Against LGBTQ Community to Remain in Jail

Judge denies early release to Long Island man who spent a decade threatening to "shoot, kill, and bomb" various LGBTQ people, events, and organizations.

Image by Todd Franson.

An elderly convicted felon who spent nearly a decade of threatening armed violence against LGBTQ people, events, and organizations will remain in jail after a judge ruled his heart attack while in custody wasn’t sufficient reason to release him before the end of his sentence.

Robert Fehring, 75, had asked for early release under the First Step Act, but Long Island Federal Court Judge Joanna Seybert denied that request last week after five of his victims pleaded with the court to keep him in jail for the remainder of his 30-month sentence, reports the New York Daily News.

“I have researched the law. … Having a heart attack is not an excuse for early release,” Seybert said. “The defendant’s motion is denied.”

Seybert said she took into account the threat that Fehring might pose to the safety of his victims if released, and the amount of pain they suffered from his threats, which he issued for more than eight years before being apprehended in November 2021. 

From 2013 to 2021, Fehring, a resident of Bayport, New York, sent at least 65 letters through the mail threatening to “kill, shoot, and bomb” prominent LGBTQ sites and organizations in the New York area. He also did reconnaissance on some of his victims, sending photos of Pride events to show that the participants and organizers could be killed.

In one letter, Fehring threatened to place “radio-controlled devices” at strategic places that would target the New York City Pride March with enough “firepower” that would “make the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk,” referring to a mass shooting in Florida that killed 49 and wounded dozens more. He threatened to burn down the Stonewall Inn, an LGBTQ historical landmark that was the site of the riots that launched the modern-day LGBTQ Pride movement, which has been designated a national monument.

Fehring also sent letters threatening violence at a Pride event in East Meadow, New York; against a club in Long Beach, New York, that held an LGBTQ-themed night; against a Brooklyn Black-owned barbershop serving the gay community; and against people and operators traveling on the Fire Island Ferry

Upon searching Fehring’s home, the FBI and the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force recovered photographs from the East Meadow Pride event, 20 stolen Pride flags, two loaded shotguns, hundred of rounds of ammunition, two stun guns, and “a stamped envelope addressed to an LGBTQ-affiliated attorney containing the remains of a dead bird,” according to charging documents. 

According to charging documents, Fehring told police while being questioned that he sent the letters because he was upset over widespread visibility of the LGBTQ community and his opposition to homosexuality. He later pleaded guilty to mailing threatening communications through the postal service. 

According to the Daily News, Judge Seybert appeared to be overcome with emotion as one victim, Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce President Eileen Tyznar,  who is suffering from pancreatic cancer, talked about the impact Fehring’s threats had on her. Tyznar stated that she wanted to live “the last few years of my beautiful life” free from worrying if Fehring would make good on his threats. 

According to court documents, Fehring sent Tyznar several letters threatening violence over the Chamber of Commerce’s Pride events and the presence of Pride flags throughout the town of Sayville during Pride Month.

“Aging, that is not a reason for release. We all age,” Tyznar said, addressing the court through tears. “I’m amazed that I’m even standing here today. … I have no doubt this man fully intended to carry out his threats.”

Fehring claimed to have had a heart attack in his cell on Feb. 1, but the guard in his unit at Fort Dix federal prison in New Jersey slept through it, and Fehring didn’t receive medical help for 12 hours.

“This is not a court of vengeance, this is a court of justice,” Fehring’s lawyer, Glenn Obedin, argued in court. “[If] We send Mr. Fehring back, that may be the end for him.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Shanies said Fehring’s health problems predated his sentence, and pleaded with Seybert not to use those health concerns as a “get out of jail free card.”

“Less than one year is simply not enough,” Shanies said, noting that Fehring has not served even half of his sentence. “Not enough to deter other people like him.”

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