A Missouri man who threatened to “behead,” “light on fire,” “bomb” and “slaughter” Muslims worshiping at a Georgia mosque pleaded guilty to hate crimes on Monday.
Preston Q. Howard, 49, of Wright City, Mo., pleaded guilty to three counts of obstructing persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
He’s subject to a sentencing enhancement because he chose his victims based on their religion, according to the United States Department of Justice.
Howard made numerous phone calls to the Islamic Society of Augusta in Georgia over an approximate two-week period last summer. During the calls, he also threatened to “hunt down,” “zone in” and “execute” Muslims.
Howard admitted at a hearing Monday to committing the acts, the DOJ said.
“All people, regardless of where they worship or which religion they belong to, are entitled to live free from the threat of violence and discrimination,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “Howard’s threatening and hateful calls were criminal and unlawful. The Department of Justice will continue to hold anyone who commits hate crimes accountable under the law.”
The case was heard in a federal court in Georgia and prosecuted by United States Attorney Nancy Greenwood.
Howard was originally indicted on 10 charges of interstate communication with intent to threaten to injure.
The incident was investigated by the FBI.
“Not only did this defendant violate the mosque members’ right to exercise their religious beliefs, his threats caused them to live in fear for their safety and lives,” said David J. LeValley, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “At the FBI, we swear an oath to protect our citizens and uphold the Constitution, and violating the right to practice one’s faith will never be tolerated.”
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