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Tampa Man Sentenced for Threatening to Burn Down a Home Being Purchased by Muslim Family

The Justice Department today announced that David H. Howard, 59, of Tampa, Florida, was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Mary S. Scriven of the Middle District of Florida to serve eight months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release, and required to pay $30,000 in restitution.

Howard pleaded guilty to a felony civil rights violation on Feb. 27, after he intimidated and interfered with a family who sought to purchase a home in the Davis Islands neighborhood of Tampa, Florida, by threatening to burn down the home simply because it was being purchased by a Muslim family.

According to court documents, on Nov. 3, 2016, a Muslim man, identified as K.A., and his wife were conducting the final walk-through of a home they had placed under contract.  As K.A. arrived for the final walk-through, the defendant approached K.A. and the seller identified as H.D., and the accompanying realtors, and yelled, “This sale will not take place!”

Howard threatened to burn the house down, and told K.A., “You are not welcome here!” K.A. and his wife hurried away from the house and cancelled the closing of the home purchase that was scheduled to take place the next day. In the days that followed, Howard retold his version of the incident to neighbors, making insulting remarks about Muslims.

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“This Justice Department will not stand by when individuals use violence and intimidation to deny fair housing rights,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to prosecute crimes like this one that deprive families of a safe place to live.”

“Today’s sentence should send a clear message that we will vigorously uphold our nation’s civil rights laws,” said United States Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. “Crimes perpetrated against people because of who they are or what they believe simply cannot be tolerated.”

“The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the laws of the United States, and that’s what we did in this case. We will not allow hate motivated crimes to infiltrate our communities and threaten our citizens,” said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Tampa Division, Eric W. Sporre.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Josephine W. Thomas of the Middle District of Florida and Trial Attorney William E. Nolan of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.

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