A Texas man is facing 37 years in jail for a host of charges, including a hate crime.
Steven Scott Cantrell was sentenced to 450 months in federal prison for fire bombing Faith in Christ Church, an African American congregation, on Dec. 28 in an admitted attempt to murder a parishioner, Reuters reports.
Cantrell pleaded guilty to a federal court in Midland, Texas, to charges of damaging religious property, arson and interfering with housing. He admitted setting fire to the institution after he saw a black man passing by in a wheelchair. He added that he was hoping to kill the man, whom he believed lived in a shelter at the church. The man remain unharmed, Reuters reports.
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas said the office had zero tolerance for Cantrell's actions.
"When hatred and bigotry are expressed through acts of violence and destruction, this office will use every resource available to ensure that those responsible are found, prosecuted and punish," said Robert Pitman. "There is simply no room in a civilized society for the kind of conduct Cantrell engaged in."
According to Pitman, this incident was one of several racially motivated crimes Cantrell committed in an attempt to "gain status" in the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Cantrell apparently went on a rampage that same day, setting fire to a home of a man he believed was Jewish and a gym he said served Latino and black customers, and who's owner was a white man married to a Mexican woman. Cantrell told U.S. District Judge Robert Junell that he felt "disrespected" by their marriage.
"I believed the white race needed to be kept pure," he told the judge.
According to the FBI's annual Hate Crime Statistics report, 47 percent of all the reported hate crimes in 2010 were racially motivated, with 20 percent motivated by religion, 19.3 percent by sexual orientation and 12.8 percent by nationality.
In addition to his prison sentence, the judge ordered Cantrell to pay more than a half million dollars in restitution to his victims.
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