Mississippi man pleads guilty to antisemitic harassment in Pennsylvania

Donavon Parish, in a 2022 Forrest County mugshot.

Donavon Parish, 29, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on June 18 to cyberstalking harassment, admitting that he was motivated by Jew-hatred, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He faced one count of cyberstalking and five counts of abuse and harassment using a telecommunications device, and admitted to a special finding that he targeted his victims abased on their actual and perceived religion.

Parish, of Hattiesburg, Miss., made threats over the phone to synagogues and Jewish businesses in Pennsylvania in April and May 2022 using Voice over Internet Protocol, according to the June 2023 indictment. He was arrested on July 13, 2023.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that he targeted three synagogues and three Jewish-owned delis in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, including calling one deli more than 15 times. One synagogue he called housed a preschool and kindergarten.

“He repeatedly referenced the genocide of approximately 6 million Jewish people during the Holocaust, stating, among other things, ‘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 U.S. Justice Department.

“The calls were reported to a local police department and when an officer called Parish’s number back, he answered, prosecutors said,” the Inquirer reported. “The officer asked if Parish had called the deli, to which Parish said yes, and then declared that ‘all Jews need to die’ and ‘Heil Hitler.’ When the officer asked the Parish for his identifying information, he hung up.”

The Inquirer added that one of the synagogues that Parish targeted runs a pre-kindergarten and religious schools.

“Cyberstalking is already a serious violation and targeting victims based on their religion is a hate crime, which makes it that much more abhorrent,” stated Jacqueline Romero, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “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 FBI Philadelphia. “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 Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi assisted in the investigation.

Parish, who will be sentenced on Sept. 24, faces up to 15 years in jail, three years of supervised release, a $1.5 million fine and a $600 special assessment, per the Justice Department. The FBI assisted in the investigation.

In May 2022, the Forrest County Sheriff’s Office arrested Donavon for making “abusive calls” to the 911 emergency service. He had a similar charge in October 2021.

From JNS and staff reports.