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Texas man sentenced to 10 years in prison for hate crime, arson attack on Austin synagogue

A Texas man who kept journals filled with virulent antisemitic statements was sentenced to prison on Wednesday for committing a hate crime and setting fire to an Austin synagogue in 2021.

Franklin Sechriest, 19, of San Marcos, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in April to arson and a hate crime in connection with the Oct. 31, 2021, fire at Congregation Beth Israel, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

On Wednesday, Sechriest was sentenced to 10 years in prison and three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $470,000 in restitution.

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

According to court documents and admissions made during the plea and sentencing hearings, Sechriest said he went to the synagogue three days before the fire to “scout out a target.”

On the night of the arson, Sechriest drove to the synagogue and was observed on surveillance footage carrying a five-gallon container and toilet paper as he walked toward the synagogue’s sanctuary.

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Moments later, the glow of a fire was seen on surveillance footage, and Sechriest was seen running away from the flames and toward the open driver’s side door of a vehicle.

A citizen reported the fire and the Austin Fire Department quickly responded, and extinguished the flames.

In a journal entry dated that same day, Sechriest wrote, “I set a synagogue on fire.”

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The pages following that entry showed that Sechriest was actively monitoring media reports to track the progress of the investigation into the arson.

Sechriest admitted he targeted the synagogue because of his hatred of Jews, writing in his journal “I set a synagogue on fire” and that he was actively monitoring media reports to track the progress of the investigation into the fire, prosecutors said.

“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,” U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas said. “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.”

​U.S. News Today on Fox News

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