A Bayport man sent dozens of hate-filled letters to LGBTQ organizations and leaders, threatening bombings and a mass shooting that would make the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub attack "look like a cakewalk" in comparison, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Robert Fehring, 74, surrendered to FBI agents Monday and was charged with making threats through the U.S. mail.
During his arraignment Monday at U.S. District Court in Central Islip, Magistrate Judge Steven Locke said he was "extremely disturbed" by the allegations but released Fehring on $100,000 bond, home confinement and electronic monitoring.
"Fehring’s alleged threats to members of the LGBTQ+ community were not only appalling, but dangerous, despite the fact he hadn’t yet acted on his purported intentions," said Michael Driscoll, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI New York field office.
If convicted, Fehring, a retired Bellport High School teacher, band director and track coach, faces up to five years in prison.
"We appreciate the seriousness with which this type of allegation is being taken," said Glenn Obedin, Fehring’s defense attorney.
Law enforcement identified at least 60 letters postmarked between 2013 and 2021 threatening violence against members of the LGBTQ community, court papers said.
Copies of several letters, along with images used in the correspondence, including a doctored Newsday front page spewing anti-gay rhetoric, were recovered during a search of Fehring's home last month by the FBI’s Civil Rights Squad and the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Also recovered were two loaded shotguns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, two stun guns, an American flag-patterned machete and an envelope addressed to an LGBTQ-affiliated attorney containing the remains of a dead bird, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Monday. Investigators also found 20 gay pride flags that appear identical to those stolen in Sayville last summer, the complaint said.
"The defendant's hate-filled invective and threats of violence directed at members of the LGBTQ+ community have no place in our society and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Breon Peace, U.S. attorney for New York's Eastern District.
A May 20 letter addressed to the executive director of an organization that plans LGBTQ events warned of a mass casualty event at the 2021 New York City Pride march.
In the letter, prosecutors said Fehring warned of "radio-cont[r]olled devices placed at numerous strategic places" at the march with "firepower" that would "make the Pulse Nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk." In 2016, Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Fehring is also accused of sending a dozen threatening missives to David Kilmnick, chief executive of the LGBT Network in Hauppauge, most recently about the 2021 Long Island Pride event at Eisenhower Park.
"It's not just letters with hateful, disgusting things," said Kilmnick, who received dozens of letters dating back to 2014, prompting the police to install panic buttons inside his home and the network's community centers. "It's threats. I had to think twice about putting out the garbage or getting the mail."
A June 9 letter told Kilmnick to "be ready to meet your end if you show up at Eisenhower on Sunday. It's a great place to unload a high-powered rifle bullet from a distance that can go right through your gay face. You were warned … Pay the price if you want. They can call you a martyr. We can call you … gone."
The envelope was marked with a "Confidential" stamp that Fehring told investigators he used to ensure letters were "taken seriously and reached their intended recipient," according to the complaint.
A subsequent envelope sent to Kilmnick contained a doctored Newsday front page with photographs of the pride event and derogatory captions. A third letter to Kilmnick claimed that Fehring or others had attempted to "get a shot off" at the East Meadow event but was prevented by the large police presence.
"Too many cops. Very disappointed," he wrote, according to the complaint. "But your time has come … They are out to KILL you …. and your boyfriend. You are being watched. No matter how long it takes, you will be taken out …. high-powered bullet …. bomb …. knife …. whatever it takes."
During a Nov. 18 interview with FBI agents, Fehring acknowledged animosity toward the LGBTQ community, suggesting there is a "sickening overdose of that stuff being shoved down everybody's face in the paper, on the TV and all over the place," prosecutors said.
Sayville Chamber president Eileen Tyznar said she received several letters from Fehring.
"He would be extremely descriptive about what he was going to do if we continued to hang pride flags; if we continued to have parades and if we did it again what would happen next," Tyznar said outside of court Monday.
A 2019 letter warned a member of the Patchogue Chamber of Commerce that ambulances and a large police presence would be needed if the organization allowed an LGBTQ event to proceed as planned, prosecutors said.
A September 2021 letter threatened the owner of a Brooklyn barber shop affiliated with the LGBTQ community that they were a "perfect target for a bombing," vandalism or an attack on patrons.
Other incendiary letters written by Fehring referred to heterosexual individuals as "normal" while others, including one sent in mid-June2021 to an unidentified Long Island elected official, compare members of the gay community to animals, the complaint said.