Feds Charge Man With Threatening Philly Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw
The FBI says that the man admitted to investigators that he had "crossed the line."
These days, lots of people love to sit behind a computer screen an anonymously attack others online. But in the case of one man, the threats he allegedly sent online to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw turned out to be not so anonymous after all.
The Department of Justice has charged a Massachusetts man named Peter Fratus with “interstate threatening communications” after he allegedly sent two threatening emails to Outlaw on Saturday, June 6th as the city was immersed in protests over the killing of George Floyd. According to the FBI, those emails were sent to Outlaw’s official city email address.
The FBI says that Fratus, 39, sent the emails using the alias Kevin Johnson. The emails came from a Gmail account whose very username was racist in and of itself. The messages invoked racist slurs as well as anti-Semitic language. One email used the word “kill.” The other used the word “hang.”
Investigators tracked the emails to a Comcast customer in West Dennis, Massachusetts, a coastal town. The FBI eventually identified Fratus as the person who sent the emails from that home.
According to an affidavit filed in the case, Massachusetts State Police informed the FBI that Fratus had previously threatened a Massachusetts government official by voicemail. He allegedly went so far as to threaten to slit that official’s throat.
The FBI questioned Fratus and says that he admitted to sending the threatening messages to Outlaw as well as the Massachusetts official. Fratus also admitted that he “crossed the line,” according to the FBI.
If convicted, Fratus could face up to five years in federal prison as well as fines of up to $250,000.
“As alleged in the criminal complaint, Peter Fratus’ racist threats towards Commissioner Outlaw were vile and disturbing,” said U.S. Attorney William McSwain. “We take such threats very seriously, and let this be a warning to anyone who might feel the urge to fire off an online threat directed at a public official: we will trace your digital footprint, track you down and hold you accountable.”
“While the First Amendment gives us the right to express our own opinions, violent physical threats are certainly not protected speech,” said Michael J. Driscoll, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “When someone threatens the life of another person, it’s a clear red flag and we have to take their despicable words at face value. Today’s arrest of Peter Fratus demonstrates the FBI’s resolve to investigate and bring to justice anyone who crosses this line.”
The Philadelphia Police Department declined to comment on the matter.