Jail Prison

California Woman Gets 3 Years After Threat To Cut The Heads Off Of A Jewish Family In Florida

Jail Prison
Prison Photo (TFP File Photo)

In a troubling display of hate, Melanie Harris, a 59-year-old woman from California, was sentenced Thursday to 32 months in prison for knowingly and intentionally transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce.

Harris of Riverside targeted a Jewish family in South Florida.

“Defendant Melanie Harris’s anti-Semitic threats terrorized a Jewish family,” stated U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida. “Her hate-filled telephone calls and voicemails were abhorrent. No one should live in fear of threats, harassment, and hate-fueled violence. There is simply no place in our society for anyone who threatens Jews or anyone else in our diverse South Florida community. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with our FBI partners, will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those that threaten our safety and security, while seeking justice for the victims impacted by these vile crimes.” 

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The case against Melanie Harris began to unfold in October 2022, when she made multiple threatening calls to the cell phone of “Victim 1,” a member of a Jewish family living in the Southern District of Florida. In these calls,

Harris left four separate voicemails, using vile and inflammatory language to communicate a true threat. In one of the voicemails, she stated, “I’ll cut your f—— head off kiker,” using the anti-Semitic slur “kike” to target the victim’s Jewish identity.

As the investigation progressed, it became clear that Harris’ hateful campaign had been ongoing for over four years. During this time, she made over 240 calls to Victim 1, unleashing a torrent of anti-Semitic hate and direct threats against the victim, their family, and Jews in general.

In these calls and voicemails, Harris made incessant references to the congregants murdered in the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, further escalating the sense of fear and intimidation.

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Harris’ harassment extended beyond the individual victims, as she also began calling the Tree of Life Synagogue itself on the same day she started targeting Victim 1 in February 2019.

In these calls, she left virtually identical hate-filled, anti-Semitic messages, referencing the deaths of the elderly worshippers and further sowing a climate of terror within the community.

Victim 1, the former Executive Director of the Tree of Life Synagogue, and his wife and their adult child were all long-time members and closely associated with the institution.

This connection only compounded the trauma they experienced, as they were constantly living in fear for their lives due to Harris’ relentless harassment and threats.

To further torment her victims, Harris employed tactics to conceal her identity, using the *67 feature to block her phone number from being detected by Victim 1’s caller ID system. This left the victims with no knowledge of who their harasser was or where the calls were originating from, adding to their sense of vulnerability and helplessness.

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“Melanie Harris sent threatening communications to a Jewish family using vile and inflammatory language. The nature of her threats of violence towards the victims and their faith were clearly meant to evoke a climate of fear and intimidation. Such conduct cannot be tolerated,” said Jeffrey B. Veltri, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami Field Office. “Violence through words or actions is unacceptable and the FBI will continue to do everything we can to identify, arrest, and bring to justice those who engage in similar conduct.”

The case was investigated by the FBI’s Miami Area Corruption Task Force, which also investigates civil rights violations. FBI agents in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and Riverside, California, as well as the Riverside Police Department, provided invaluable assistance in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Edward N. Stamm and Nardia Haye ultimately prosecuted the case, which was indicted by Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry C. Wallace, Jr.

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