Cops, Courts and Fire

Mississippi Man Pleads Guilty To Antisemitic Cyberstalking, Harassment Charges

The man was arrested last year on federal charges.

File photo.

A Mississippi man admitted Thursday to targeting Jewish institutions in the Philadelphia region with hate speech and threats over the phone.

Donavon Parish, 29, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to one count of cyberstalking and five counts of harassment using a telecommunications device, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Jacqueline Romero announced.

U.S. District Court Senior Judge Cynthia Rufe heard Parish’s plea.

Parish acknowledged a special finding that his offenses were motivated by the victims’ actual and perceived religion, according to prosecutors.

The charges stem from a series of harassing phone calls Parish made using a Voice over Internet Protocol service to synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses in the Philadelphia area.

During the calls, Parish made several antisemitic statements, including threats of violence and references to the Holocaust, prosecutors said.

Among the comments Parish made were: “Heil Hitler,” “all Jews must die,” “we will put you in work camps,” “gas the Jews,” and “Hitler should have finished the job.”

According to the indictment, one Jewish-owned business received 15 calls from Parish over a five-day period in 2022.

Authorities filed a June 2023 indictment, arrested Parish last summer, and then filed superseding information last month, according to court records.

Parish’s arrest followed an investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors in the Philadelphia area, alongside the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division’s Counter Terrorism Section. Additional support was provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and federal prosecutors in Mississippi.

Sentencing will be held at a future date.

The statutory maximum sentence Parish could face is 15 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $1.5 million, and a $600 special assessment.

Romero pointed to the seriousness of the crimes and noted hateful motivation behind them.

“Cyberstalking is already a serious violation and targeting victims based on their religion is a hate crime, which makes it that much more abhorrent,” said Romero. “We and our partners will continue to work to hold accountable anyone who criminally misuses today’s technology to spread hate and fear.”

“Antisemitism has no place in our society,” said Wayne A. Jacobs, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia field office. “Today’s guilty plea reinforces that we will pursue justice against those who threaten members of our communities with such vile threats. The FBI will continue to work closely with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office to ensure our citizens feel safe in the environments they live, work and play in.”

The case comes in the wake of rising antisemitic incidents across the country.

The Anti-Defamation League reported a 36 percent increase in such incidents in 2022, including escalated threats toward Jewish places of worship and schools. In data released last year, the FBI reported a 12 percent increase in hate crimes from 2020 to 2021.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for 12 years for both newspaper and online publications. Tom’s reporting has appeared locally, nationally, and internationally across several mediums. He is proud to report on news in the county where he lives and to have created a reliable publication that the community deserves.