For the past year, the co-owner of the historic Stonewall Inn has looked over her shoulder, wondering if the bigot who wrote a letter threatening to shoot up the landmark LGBTQ bar would make good on his promise.
Stacy Lentz is furious that the elderly Long Island man responsible for that threat — and more than 60 others to the LGBTQ community — will only get 2½ years behind bars.
Lentz said the menacing letters sent by Robert Fehring, 74, were unlike any other hate mail she and Stonewall co-owner Kurt Kelly ever received.
“They were scary. They were very specific, and personally addressed to us, which was alarming,” Lentz told the Daily News after Fehring’s sentencing Wednesday in Long Island Federal Court. “It was very ominous and very threatening.”
Since 2013, Fehring, of Bayport, has written 65 letters threatening to detonate bombs at parades and events and shoot LGBTQ activists in the head, according to federal prosecutors.
He sent identical letters to Lentz and Kelly in June 2021 that read: ”All of you should be shot, hung, exterminated … we will blow up/burn your establishments down. We will shoot those who frequent your dens of filth, s—, scum and perversion.”
In another letter, sent to a New York City Pride organizer, Fehring promised an attack that would make the 2016 Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre “look like a cakewalk.”
The 2016 mass shooting at Pulse, a well-known gay nightclub, left 49 people dead and dozens wounded.
Lentz said the threat to Stonewall made her “jumpy.”
She avoided walking home alone at night and looked at crowds “a little differently” during events.
“It was beyond stressful. Obviously, we do a lot of media, and we’re easily recognizable,” Lentz said. “And so you know if you can find what we look like, it’s easy to target us.”
The Stonewall Inn is considered the birthplace of the gay rights movement in the U.S. An NYPD raid on the the West Village bar in 1969 led to days of riots and inspired generations of activists to secure rights for gays and lesbians.
President Barack Obama declared the Stonewall Inn a national monument in 2016.
“We understand the responsibility that comes with Stonewall,” Lentz said. “Our biggest fear is always something like a Pulse happening again.”
Lentz said she felt it was her civic duty to share her story at Fehring’s sentencing Wednesday.
“When we heard he was caught we were pretty ecstatic and relieved,” Lentz said. “But again, so many aren’t caught. And the fact that he’s going to be back out, like in 2½ years is just crazy.”
At sentencing, Fehring faced a maximum of five years behind bars. Federal prosecutors asked that he get at least 51 months in prison.
But Fehring’s defense lawyers asked for probation, citing his age and deteriorating health, and suggesting that his crimes “may have been triggered by the repressed feelings” from when a male cousin sexually abused him at age 8.
Fehring was ordered to surrender to prison by Sept. 2.
At his sentencing, Fehring described his actions as those of “a stupid old man.”
“I am so sorry for what I have done,” Fehring told U.S. Judge Joanna Seybert, Newsday reported on Wednesday. “We all make mistakes, and I made a bunch of them.”
Though Fehring never acted on his threats, FBI agents found firearms, ammunition, other weapons and photos of a 2021 Pride event when they searched his Long Island home in November.
Seybert’s sentence didn’t sit well with David Kilmnick, the president of the Long Island-based LGBT Network.
“He’s been doing this, threatening our lives, threatening my life for the past 10 years. And I’ve lost 10 years of my life. So why does this person only get 30 months?” Kilmnick told reporters after the sentencing.
“He showed up at Long Island Pride, took pictures. He sent them to me and said, ‘You were lucky you had police around you. Otherwise you would have been dead.”
Lentz also lamented the sentence as too light.
“This is just sending a message to bullies,” Lentz said. “This is kind of one of the ultimate bullies, and he didn’t get much punishment for it, right?”
“It traumatized our entire community,” she added. “That’s what hate crimes do — it shakes everyone who’s a member of that community, no matter what community it is.”