Feds secure rare hate crime conviction for mosque threat

Source: Associated Press

By CURT ANDERSON

MIAMI (AP) — Prosecutors secured a relatively rare federal hate crime conviction punishable by a tough sentence on Thursday as a Florida man pleaded guilty to leaving a voicemail that threatened to shoot people at a mosque.

Legal experts and Islamic advocates said it sends an important message at a time of tension for American Muslims.

Gerald Sloane Wallace, 35, admitted at a plea hearing that he made the threatening phone call to the Islamic Center of Greater Miami on Feb. 19, according to the Miami U.S Attorney’s Office. He pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs, which carries a stiff 20-year maximum prison sentence, although he could get half that.

Prosecutors previously said Wallace admitted leaving similar threatening messages at other mosques. The charge was upgraded to a hate crime from a lesser offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

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