TAMPA — A federal judge said Thursday that a man who harassed and intimidated an Iraqi-American woman in her Pasco County neighborhood — accusing her of being a terrorist, entering her home without permission and threatening her — should serve no more jail time.
U.S. District Judge James Moody sentenced David Bouileau to time served for what prosecutors said amounted to a hate crime. He also gave Boileau a year of supervised release and ordered that he is not to come within 150 feet of Rana Al-Hakeem, her family, or her home.
The sentence stunned both her and a group of supporters who were visibly flummoxed after the sentencing hearing at the downtown Tampa courthouse. In tearful testimony, they spoke of the ever-present fear that Boileau brought to the neighborhood and their concerns that he might come back.
“We’re extremely disappointed with the judge’s use of discretion in this case,” said Thania Clevenger, a civil rights director with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida. “It did not provide the safety that this family and the entire neighborhood need.”
The judge, while not discounting statements from the witnesses, explained that even if he imposed the maximum one-year sentence, it would only mean Boileau would remain incarcerated for a few more months. Moody also agreed with a defense attorney’s argument that the crime was not born of racism but of mental illness.
"I think it’s his mental illness that was instrumental in causing these problems,” Moody said. “Keeping him in jail another 5 1/2 months does nothing to solve the situation we’re in.”
Doctors have diagnosed Boileau with bipolar disorder, Assistant Federal Public Defender Adam Allen said. His behavior was the result of delusions that his neighbors were terrorists. He no longer has a home in Pasco County and has received mental health treatment.
When prosecutor Francis Murray asked that Boileau be subject to electronic GPS monitoring, the judge declined.
Boileau, 58, pleaded guilty in September to a federal charge of interfering with housing rights related to various acts he committed while living on Pinehurst Drive in Holiday.
Al-Hakeem lived in a house nearby. She is Muslim and was born in Iraq. She is a widow and the mother of two boys and two girls. She was a university professor in her native country with a Ph.D. in information analysis. Her sister provided translation services to the U.S. military, which made the family a target of death threats. The family had to move frequently.
She came to the U.S. in 2015 on a refugee visa. She didn’t speak English well, she said, and took any job she could find. She studied computer science at Pasco-Hernando State College.
“I tried my best to be a good mom, a good citizen,” she said.
Her neighbors were welcoming, she said. But after Boileau moved nearby, she became afraid to be in her own home.
When Boileau learned she was a Muslim of Middle Eastern heritage, he began to tell people he suspected she was a member of the ISIS terrorist organization. He also began what federal officials said was a series of acts aimed at intimidating her and her family.
Over the course of two days in January, he tossed metal screws onto a car parked on her property. He peered into her yard through a privacy fence and into her house. He opened her mailbox and read through her mail. He knocked on her front window and yelled, “Hey!” He later walked inside the house without permission, looked through each of the rooms and took pictures.
Neighbors told investigators about conversations they had with Boileau in which he expressed hostility toward the family in particular and Muslims in general.
“The U.S. needs to rid the country of all of them,” he was quoted as saying.
He also told a Pasco County sheriff’s deputy that if he couldn’t get rid of his neighbors “Trump will take care of it.”
Boileau was reported to have threatened the family directly, telling them to “get the f--- out of my country.” He later acquired a shotgun, according to a plea agreement, which he said was to protect himself from the woman.
Because of Boileau’s behavior, Al-Hakeem said she quit wearing a hijab, a head covering worn by some Muslim women. She quit a teaching job at a local Islamic school for fear of attracting unwanted attention. Her children were afraid to be in their own house and at one point left to stay with their grandparents. Her son no longer walked to his school bus stop. Her sister no longer visited.
“I don’t believe he has any respect for the law,” Al-Hakeem told the judge. “He even made death threats to my neighbors for coming to my aid.”
“My family and I deserve protection of the law no matter what religion we practice," she said. "I never thought in a free country my religion would affect my life and my neighbors’ lives in a negative way.” She wept during her testimony.
Boileau, in orange jail garb and a scruffy beard, stood and apologized when it was his chance to speak.
“I did what I thought was right at the time,” he said. “I’ve lost everything. My mother, my wife ... my friends, my reputation ... I don’t know what else to say. I’m broken.”
The judge repeatedly noted that he could give Boileau no more than a year of incarceration.