A Florida man has pleaded guilty to committing a hate crime for a threatening call he made to a local mosque in February.
The Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office announced on Thursday that Gerald Wallace, 35, admitted in a plea hearing to leaving a threatening voicemail for the Islamic Center of Greater Miami on Feb. 19. He pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs.
Wallace admitted to leaving a message with hateful remarks against Islam, the Quran and the prophet Muhammad. In the voicemail, he reportedly said: “l hate you Muslims, you Muslims are terrible. l hate you people. l’m gonna go down to your center, I’m gonna’ shoot all ya’ll.”
The defendant faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for committing a hate crime, according to the Miami U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Hate crimes, no matter their form, engender fear and have no place in our society,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg in a statement. “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.”
John Gore, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division, added: “The Justice Department will not tolerate threats of hate violence, which threaten whole communities’ sense of safety and security.”
Wallace’s sentencing is set for Jan. 17, 2018, in front of U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke.
The prosecution marks a rare victory in the fight against Islamophobia and other forms of bias. Hate crimes are notoriously hard to prosecute and prove, and they carry harsher penalties than other crimes in most jurisdictions. Prosecutors typically must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the perpetrator singled out the victim because of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, among other identity factors.
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