35-year-old can be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail.
Gerald Sloane Wallace of Florida has pleaded guilty to a hate crime against Muslims. The 35-year-old left a voicemail which contained a recording of profanities spoken against Islam, the Quran, and Prophet Muhammad. He also threatened to visit that particular center and shoot people. He pleaded guilty to a single count of obstruction of free exercise of all religious beliefs.
The crime carries a prison term which can be as punitive as 20 years. The tentative date for his sentencing is January 17, 2018. Judge Marcia G. Cooke of the U.S. District Court is set to preside over his prosecution.
In the recording, Wallace reputedly said he hates Muslims and the latter are terrible. He also threatened to visit multiple mosques and shoot the congregants. He also can be slapped with a $250,000 fine. This monetary imposition is in accordance with hate crime laws. Benjamin G. Greenberg, the acting United States Attorney said, “Hate crimes, no matter their form, engender fear and have no place in our society. By leaving a hate-filled and profanity laden message against Islam and threatening to shoot the members of the mosque he targeted, Gerald Wallace obstructed the free exercise of religion.” The Civil Rights Division's Acting Assistant Attorney General, John Gore said, “The Justice Department will not tolerate threats of hate violence, which threaten whole communities’ sense of safety and security.”
The prosecution is one of the rare instances of the government getting an upper hand in its fight against Islamophobia along with other varieties of bias. Crimes related to hate are extremely hard to prove and consequently prosecute. They also bring tougher penalties compared to other crimes in a majority of jurisdictions in the United States. To make a person get punished for hate crimes, prosecutors must provide irrefutable proof the concerned perpetrator zeroed onto the victim solely due to race, sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender.
Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, the communications director of Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida chapter, applauded the prosecution. He said Wallace will now have time to think about the damage his actions had done to Muslim worshipers. He noted the Muslim community in Florida has suffered a 'never before' onslaught of threats and attacks during recent years.