Marq Vincent Perez faces up to 40 years in prison after his Thursday indictment on hate crime charges and two other crimes for destroying an Islamic mosque in Victoria, Texas.
Perez is charged with damaging religious property, use of fire to commit a federal felony and possession of an unregistered destructive device, collectively amounting to a potential 40-year sentence. He also faces up to $750,000 in fines, the Victoria Advocate reports.
Perez has been held in a county jail since March 3, when he was arrested by officers investigating the January 28 burning of the Islamic center.
The center’s president, Dr. Shahid Hashmi, said in February that his community would forgive whoever set the fire. “But there’s no way we can forget. There’s no way our children can forget,” he told the Texas Tribune.
Police said in a Thursday press conference that the investigation is still ongoing and other defendants may be charged in the crime.
The hate crime indictment comes after four churches in New York were defaced with satanic graffiti over Father’s Day weekend in what is also being investigated as a hate crime.
Still-unidentified vandals spray painted pentagrams and “hail Satan” on the exteriors of the four churches June 17, but congregations were able to clean the buildings before services.
“We are disturbed by this. It is disrespectful,” Detective Lt. Bob Donohue told the New York Post. “I am asking pastors to speak to their parishioners, and find out if anyone sees or heard anything on social media.”
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