An elderly Long Island man who sent nearly a decade of terrifying threats to LGBTQ+ organizations was denied early release from prison Thursday — after a judge ruled his heart attack wasn’t reason enough to cut him loose less than a year into his 30-month sentence.
Robert Fehring, 75, was asking for early release under the First Step Act, but Long Island Federal Court Judge Joanna Seybert denied that request Thursday afternoon after hearing emotional pleas from five of his victims.
“I have researched the law…. Having a heart attack is not an excuse for early release,” the judge said. “The defendant’s motion is denied.”
Seybert said she had factored the safety of the victims and the amount of pain they suffered into her decision.
Fehring’s hate campaign left LGBTQ+ leaders in New York City and Long Island looking over their shoulders in fear and afraid to show up for work. He also targeted the historic Stonewall Inn in Manhattan.
He sent out 65 letters between 2013 and 2021, and even did reconnaissance on some of his victims, sending photos of Pride events to show that the participants and organizers could be killed.
The judge appeared visibly overcome with emotion as one victim, Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce president Eileen Tyzar, 58, spoke about how she was suffering from pancreatic cancer and wanted to live “the last few years of my beautiful life” free from worrying if Fehring would make good on his threats.
Fehring sent Tyzar several letters threatening violence over the Chamber of Commerce’s Pride events and the presence of pride flags in Sayville.
“Aging, that is not a reason for release. We all age,” Tyzar said, crying as she gave her statement to the judge. “I’m amazed that I’m even standing here today. … I have no doubt this man fully intended to carry out his threats.”
Fehring said he had a heart attack in his cell the night of Feb. 1, but the guard in his unit in the Fort Dix, N.J. federal prison slept through it, and he wasn’t sent to a hospital for 12 hours.
“This is not a court of vengeance, this is a court of justice,” Fehring’s lawyer, Glenn Obedin said Thursday. “We send Mr. Fehring back, that may be the end for him.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Shanies said that the bulk of Fehring’s health problems predated his sentence.
“The only thing that’s new is the defendant had a heart attack …. This is not a get out of jail free card,” she said. “Less than one year is simply not enough. Not enough to deter other people like him.”
Tyzar, who said she’s been dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder after three years of getting threats, praised the judge’s decision.
“She heard us. She did the right thing. Thank God. I feel relieved. I feel like we have a couple more years to breathe,” she said.