According to a release, the Justice Department announed the guilty plea entered by 59-year-old David H. Howard, Tampa, Florida, to one count of threatening, intimidating, and interfering with the right of a Muslim family to enjoy a home in Florida. This was in violation of Title 42 U.S.C. § 3631. Prosecutors charged that Howard intimidated and interfered with the victims, who were trying to buy a residene in the Davis Islands neighborhood of Tampa. They claimed that Howard and threatened to burn down the house because it was being purchased by Muslims.   

On Nov. 3, 2016, a Muslim man, identified as K.A. in court documents, and his wife were conducting the final walk-through of a home they had placed under contract. The house is reportedly 2,766 square feet in size, and the anticipated sale price was $685,000. As K.A. arrived for the final walk-through, the defendant approached K.A. 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.

“The Department of Justice will not tolerate illegal threats or acts of intimidation against any individual because of their religious beliefs,” said Acting Assistant Attorney John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to work tirelessly to prosecute hate crime offenders.”

“Individuals and families should have the right to live wherever they choose, without intimidation or fear,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida. “Crimes perpetrated against people because of their race, ethnicity, color, or religious beliefs simply cannot be tolerated. And, we will prosecute those who commit these crimes to the fullest extent possible.”   

“Hate motivated crimes are not only an attack on the victim, but are meant to threaten and intimidate an entire community," said FBI Tampa Division Special Agent in Charge Eric W. Sporre. “Reporting these types of crimes along with cooperation of the community is critical to ensuring a successful outcome in cases like this.”

A sentencing date has not yet been set. Howard faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine up to $250,000.

According to media reports, K.A. has been identified as Kaderbhai Asgar. On the day of the walk-through, he was accompanied by his wife, Sehera Ali Asgar, and her parents.

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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