update deskU.S. News

Woman who made 240-plus threatening calls to former Tree of Life leader gets 32 months

“Her hate-filled telephone calls and voicemails were abhorrent,” said Markenzy Lapointe, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Police car lights. Credit: tevenet/Pixabay.
Police car lights. Credit: tevenet/Pixabay.

Melanie Harris, 59, of Riverside, Calif., was sentenced to 32 months in prison and three subsequent years of supervised release on Thursday for threatening to murder Jews.

“Defendant Melanie Harris’s antisemitic threats terrorized a Jewish family,” stated Markenzy Lapointe, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, where Harris was sentenced.

“Her hate-filled telephone calls and voicemails were abhorrent. No one should live in fear of threats, harassment and hate-fueled violence,” Lapointe stated. “There is simply no place in our society for anyone who threatens Jews or anyone else in our diverse South Florida community.” 

Harris called a Jewish man, who was executive director of the Pittsburgh synagogue Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue, more than 240 times over the course of four years. She threatened him, his family and Jews more broadly. (The synagogue was the site of a mass shooting on Oct. 27, 2018, that left 11 worshippers dead, most of them elderly.)

In her voice messages, she used an ethnic slur to refer to Jews.

“Harris concealed her phone number using the *67 feature. However, all of these calls originated from the area in Riverside, Calif., where Harris lived at the time, and were received by Victim 1’s phone in the Southern District of Florida,” per the U.S. Justice Department.

“In these calls and voicemails, Harris made incessant references to the congregants murdered in the October 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh,” it added. “Harris also made vile references to Anne Frank being murdered by the Nazis, Jews going back to Auschwitz, and in one voicemail, played for the court at the sentencing hearing, she repeatedly screamed ‘Seig Heil, Kill Kikers’ over and over before hanging up.”

Harris, who began calling the Jewish man on Feb. 19, started leaving almost the same messages for the Pittsburgh synagogue. She was arrested in March 2023. The FBI assisted in the investigation.

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