Phillip Cline, Jr., 39, of Elkton, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to making threatening interstate communications. Cline admitted that during a recorded phone conversation with an employee of an auto loan business, Cline threatened to physically harm the employee, whom he described using racial epithets.
The guilty plea was announced by Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division; U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; and Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Baltimore Field Office.
According to Cline’s publicly available plea agreement, on Feb. 1, 2019, an employee of an auto loan business contacted Cline about what the business suspected to be a delinquent auto loan. During the call, which was recorded, Cline was clearly upset with the caller and unwilling to provide information verifying his identity. Ultimately, Cline, who was advised that the call was being recorded, used racial epithets to threaten the employee with physical harm. As detailed in the plea agreement, Cline stated to the employee during the telephone call that his “white power friends” will “hang your ass.”
Cline faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has scheduled sentencing for Cline on Oct. 10, 2020.
U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur and Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband commended the FBI for its work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Cunningham and Trial Attorney Anita Channapati of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, who are prosecuting the case.