An Enfield man admitted in court Tuesday that he sent hundreds of threatening letters to the director of the socially conservative Family Institute of Connecticut, which is at the forefront of political opposition in Hartford to gay marriage.
The guilty plea in U.S. District Court by Daniel Sarno comes a week after an apparently similarly motivated event in which an armed man espousing opposition to social conservatism shot a security guard while trying to enter the offices of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 15.
The Family Institute and the Family Research Council are affiliated organizations created to press agendas that include opposition to abortion and to marriage other than that between a man and a woman.
Sarno, 53, admitted orchestrating a letter-writing campaign that began in November and ended in May when U.S. postal inspectors tracked the letters to his house, an official familiar with the matter said. All the letters were addressed to Family Institute Executive Director Peter Wolfgang.
"No mercy for homophobes," said one letter, obtained by The Courant. "I suggest you make your funeral arrangements real soon, Mr. Wolfgang. (Trust me. I know.)"
Sarno pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of mailing threatening communications.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham said, "Some of the letters contained threats separate and apart from the generally obnoxious nature of the letters."
Sarno, in many of the letters, referred to people who shared the beliefs of the Family Institute as "Bible thumping," "fear mongering" and "sanctimonious," Durham said.
... Wolfgang, who was in court, issued a statement through his organization thanking authorities for protecting him, his family and his professional colleagues.
"Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident," Wolfgang said. "In fact, it is part of a growing and disturbing intimidation campaign among some proponents of same-sex 'marriage.' It is clear that their pretense of 'tolerance' is over.
"Using death threats to stifle debate is un-American. These types of tactics won't work. The Family Institute of Connecticut will continue its work to strengthen and protect marriage, life and religious freedom."
The statement from the Family Institute said that in the letters, Sarno "identified himself as homosexual and made it clear that he was threatening Peter's life because of Peter's beliefs and public advocacy."