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Mississippi man pleads guilty to making threatening calls to Jewish delis and synagogues in Philly region

PHILADELPHIA — A 29-year-old Mississippi man on Tuesday pleaded guilty in federal court in Philadelphia to cyberstalking for making terrorizing phone calls to Jewish synagogues and delicatessens in the Philadelphia region, U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced.

Donavon Parish, of Hattiesburg, Miss., also pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Cynthia M. Rufe to five counts of abuse and harassment using a telecommunications device, and he admitted to a special finding that he targeted his victims based on their actual and perceived religion.

James McHugh, a federal defender representing Parish, said in an emailed statement that his client had “accepted responsibility for his conduct and pled guilty today.”

”As he told the judge in court he is ashamed by his actions in the spring of 2022. Each and every day since his arrest he has taken steps to ensure that this will never happen again,” McHugh wrote.

Parish, using a “voice-over-internet-protocol” that allowed him to anonymously make phone calls, targeted three synagogues and three delicatessens during a two-month period in 2022.

After Parish called and made threatening statements to a synagogue that operated a prekindergarten and religious schools, those schools were placed on high alert, prosecutors said. Teachers took precautions, including locking their doors.

A victim at another synagogue was left shaken and on the verge of tears after a call from Parish, prosecutors said. The synagogue also operated a school and did not allow students to leave the building until their parents came to get them.

“Antisemitism has no place in our society,” Wayne A. Jacobs, special agent in charge of the FBI in Philadelphia, said in a statement. “Today’s guilty plea reinforces that we will pursue justice against those who threaten members of our communities with such vile threats.”

No sentencing date was listed in court records.

Parish has a police record in Mississippi for making abusive calls, Southern Jewish Life magazine reported.

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