UNITED STATES NEWS

Texas man who set fire to an Austin synagogue sentenced to 10 years

Nov 29, 2023, 2:50 PM

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas man who set fire to an Austin synagogue in an antisemitic attack two years ago was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in prison.

Franklin Sechriest, 20, had previously pleaded guilty to arson and a hate crime causing damage to religious property on Halloween 2021. He also was ordered to pay $470,000 in restitution to Congregation Beth Israel, and to serve an additional three years of supervised release once he gets out of prison, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.

Sechriest, who was a member of the Texas State Guard and a student at Texas State University, had written racist and antisemitic journal entries before setting the fire, federal investigators said. Journal entries included “scout a target” on the day of the attack. Several days later, he wrote, “I set a synagogue on fire.”

Security footage showed Sechriest’s Jeep at the synagogue just before the blaze started, investigators said. He was seen carrying a 5-gallon (19-liter) container and toilet paper toward the sanctuary doors, and running away from the fire.

Sechriest later acknowledged that he targeted the synagogue because of his hatred of Jews, investigators said.

“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,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in the DOJ release.

“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.”

United States News

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Texas man who set fire to an Austin synagogue sentenced to 10 years