San Diego man pleads guilty to threatening Muslim group

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A San Diego man accused of leaving a threatening voice mail at the office of a Muslim civil rights organization pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony charges.

John Weissinger entered his guilty plea in San Diego Superior Court to felony charges of making a criminal threat and illegal possession of an assault rifle, and a misdemeanor hate crime charge.

Weissinger, 53, left a threatening voice mail at the office of the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR-San Diego, prosecutors said. In the voice mail, he said he had a lot of firepower and that the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris could occur again, according to court documents.

Weissinger also sent a threatening email on Jan. 15 to CAIR’s office in Washington, and prosecutors said police found an AR-15 rifle and a high-capacity magazine at his home.

“Unfortunately there are people like that, and we need to make sure they get a clear message that this is not acceptable,” said Hanif Mohebi, the executive director of CAIR-San Diego.

Defense attorney Thomas Matthews said his client regrets his actions. He said Weissinger suffers from severe depression and had been drinking while watching news of the terror attack by Islamic extremists on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery that left 20 people dead, including the three attackers.

“He admits he did a very stupid thing,” Matthews said, adding that the call was sent from Weissinger’s personal iPhone and the email was sent from his personal account. “He never had any intention of hurting anybody or carrying out any threat. It was simply a very poor choice based on his emotions combined with the copious amounts of alcohol he consumed as he was watching news reports on the incident.”

The rifle was from Weissinger’s deceased brother and was unloaded, Matthews said.

Weissinger could face up to a year in prison, Matthews said. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 13.

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