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A Texas man who set fire to a synagogue in Texas in October 2021 was sentenced last week to ten years in prison and ordered to pay $470,000 in restitution after pleading guilty to hate crime and arson charges.
Franklin Sechriest, a 19-year-old Texas State University student and Texas State Guard member from San Marcos, admitted he had been motivated by hatred of Jews when he targeted Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, and journals and other materials that belonged to him contained blatantly antisemitic rhetoric.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, stated, “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 arson aimed at desecrating synagogues have no place in our society today, and the Justice Department will continue to aggressively prosecute antisemitic violence.”
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas Jaime Esparza commented, “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.”
Acting Special Agent in Charge Doug Olson, of the FBI San Antonio Field Office, vowed, “We remain dedicated to investigating hate crimes and will continue to work relentlessly to hold responsible those who would commit violent acts based on hate.”
Surveillance footage captured Sechriest carrying a five-gallon container and toilet paper toward the synagogue’s sanctuary, and flames were seen coming from the direction of the sanctuary a few moments later. Sechriest was subsequently seen fleeing the scene.
The synagogue suffered serious damage in the blaze.
In a journal entry dated Oct. 31, 2021, Sechriest wrote, “I set a synagogue on fire.”
He entered a guilty plea this past April.
Watch a KVUE report on Sechriest’s sentencing here: