Man sentenced to nearly 25 years for
arson of Texas mosque
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[October 18, 2018]
By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A man convicted
of a hate crime in setting fire to a mosque in Texas was sentenced to
almost 25 years in prison on Wednesday, U.S. authorities said, adding he
acted with hatred and malice.
Marq Perez, 26, set fire to the Victoria Islamic Center, about 125 miles
(200 km) southwest of Houston in 2017. The crime was seen by Islamic
rights groups as part of a growing wave of bigotry toward Muslims in the
He was convicted in July for a hate crime in the burning of the Victoria
Islamic Center on Jan. 28, 2017. He was also convicted of the use of
fire to commit a federal felony and possessing an unregistered
destructive device for a separate but related incident, the U.S.
Department of Justice said.
At sentencing, Senior U.S. District Judge John Rainey said hate crimes
were "a cancer to our society" and "this conduct would not be tolerated
in our society," the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of
Texas said. He was sentenced to 24-1/2 years in prison.
During a week long trial in a federal court in Texas, prosecutors called
the crime "a simple, straightforward case of hate," the U.S. attorney's
Lawyers for Perez said he did not set the fire and was with his newly
born son when the building caught fire, the San Antonio Express-News
reported from the court room.
"This defendant terrorized the Muslim community in Victoria," Acting
Assistant Attorney General John Gore said in a statement, adding,
"everyone in this country has the right to worship freely without fear
The mosque was rebuilt after a flood of donations came in to restore the
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The structure of a mosque is seen one day after a fire at the
Victoria Islamic Center inn Victoria, Texas January 29, 2017.
REUTERS/Mohammad Khursheed/File Photo
When Perez learned the Victoria Muslim community had raised money to
rebuild the mosque, he told a witness he would burn the mosque down
again if it was rebuilt, the Department of Justice said.
Prosecutors said Perez broke into the mosque a week before the fire
to survey the place. In his arson attack, Perez placed papers inside
the mosque and set them on fire with a lighter, a witness said,
according to prosecutors.
Perez was initially arrested and charged in March 2017 in connection
with an attempt to blow up a car, the Justice Department said.
Evidence linking him to the mosque fire was later presented at a
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and
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