Tampa Man pleads guilty to hate crime against Muslim family

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A resident of Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty Feb. 27, to threatening to burn down the home that was being purchased by a Muslim family.

David H. Howard, 59, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, to one count of threatening, intimidating, and interfering with a Muslim family’s “enjoyment of their housing rights,” a violation of Title 42 of the U.S. Criminal Code 3631, the Justice Department announced, noting that hate crimes would not be tolerated and fully prosecuted.

Howard threatened to burn down the home which the family sought to purchase in the Davis Islands neighborhood of Tampa, simply because it was being purchased by a Muslim family.

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 court documents, on Nov. 3, 2016, a Muslim man, identified only as K.A. in the Justice Department press release, 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, Howard accosted him, and the seller and real estate agents, and yelled, “This sale will not take place!”

Howard went on to 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,” Acting Assistant Attorney John Gore of the Civil Rights Division, is quoted saying in the press release. “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.”