Antisemitism

‘I set a synagogue on fire’: Texas man sentenced in arson case

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Franklin Sechriest, a 19-year-old man living in Texas was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $470,000 in restitution to the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue, according to a release by the US Justice Department on November 29.

Sechriest had, 2 years prior on October 31, set fire to the Texas synagogue in a hate crime. Several CCTV cameras captured Sechriest carrying a five-gallon container and toilet paper toward the synagogue, and only moments later the synagogue was on fire. Further CCTV footage revealed the arsonist jogging away from the fire.

Firefighters were able to attend to the fire within four minutes of receiving a call, according to CBS Austin. No injuries had occurred as a result of the fire and the concrete structure of the building had prevented extensive damage. The firefighters had estimated the damage of the attack to be $25,000.

Antisemitism motivated the attack

During court, Sechriest pled guilty to the attack and admitted that he targeted the synagogue because of his hatred of Jews. Additionally, police were able to recover some journals belonging to Sechriest, which included antisemitic statements reflecting his personal beliefs. One journal entry, written on the same day as the fire, included the admission “I set a synagogue on fire.” Sechriest also possessed several decals and stickers expressing antisemitic messages.

Official responses to the attack

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said “This defendant is being held accountable for this depraved, antisemitic attack on Congregation Beth Israel, a community with a rich history and heritage that dates back to 1876. 

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CONGREGATION BETH Israel in Colleyville, Texas, the site of the January 15, 2022, hostage crisis. ‘What I have discovered is that an equal and opposite force of love for the Jewish people exists in our world,’ says the writer. (credit: Congregation Beth Israel)

“This hate-filled act of violence against a house of worship was an attempt to sow fear in the Jewish community and was intended to intimidate its congregants.  Attacks targeting Jewish people and arsons aimed at desecrating synagogues have no place in our society today, and the Justice Department will continue to aggressively prosecute antisemitic violence.”

US Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas also expressed that “No one should have to fear that their daily lives will be inflicted by hate-fueled violence, or that their place of worship and community could become a target of hate. “We stand firmly committed to those impacted by this arson, and my office will continue to combat criminal acts of hate while seeking justice for the victims.”





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