A federal court sentenced a Missouri man to two years in prison for making death threats via the phone to a Georgia mosque.
Preston Q. Howard, 50, of Wright City pleaded guilty to making several calls to the Islamic Society of Augusta in 2017 in which he threatened to “blow up” the mosque and murder members of the congregation. U.S. District Chief Judge J. Randal Hall granted federal prosecutors their request for a longer sentence than the federal sentencing guidelines, in light of what he saw as a “disturbing pattern of intolerance” with Howard. (RELATED: Texas Man Convicted Of Federal Arson, Hate Crime For Setting Mosque Ablaze)
“Threats made against houses of worship are abhorrent and this Office will work tirelessly to ensure that members of all faiths may worship in peace and without intimidation,” said U.S. Attorney Bobby L. Christine, according to The Associated Press.
Howard’s sentence was lengthened to two years based on the fact that he targeted the mosque’s congregation because of their religion, therefore making it a hate crime.
Howard acknowledged that in making the threatening phone calls he had attempted to obstruct the free exercise of religion for the congregation of the mosque. He apologized to the congregation and said that he recognized that not all Muslims were terrorists.
“For each one of you, I apologize,” Howard said, according to the AP.
Hall was not convinced, however, and pressed Howard, saying “When you’re released from prison, who’s next?”
Hall said that he saw a “disturbing pattern of intolerance of many groups of people” from Howard, based not only on his crime but also on his Facebook posts and symbols that he displayed on his mailbox and social media that glorified Nazism. Prosecutors also argued that Howard’s prominent display of confederate flags indicated deep-seated intolerance.
“Whatever faith you chose – that goes to the heart of who we are as a nation,” Hall said, according to The Augusta Chronicle. “You understand these (calls) are terribly offensive. And they were directed at people who sadly, because of a lot of people who think like you did … live in constant fear.”
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