A Tampa man was sentenced Tuesday after he told a family who sought to purchase a home that he would burn it down because they were Muslim.
The Justice Department announced that 59-year-old David H. Howard was sentenced by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa to serve eight months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. He was also to pay $30,000 in restitution, according to a news release.
“Today’s sentence should send a clear message that we will vigorously uphold our nation’s civil rights laws,” U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez said in the release. “Crimes perpetrated against people because of who they are or what they believe simply cannot be tolerated.”
Howard pleaded guilty to a felony civil rights violation on Feb. 27 after he intimidated and interfered with a family who tried to purchase a home in the Davis Islands neighborhood of Tampa by threatening to burn down the house because it was being purchased by a Muslim family, authorities said.
According to court documents, in November 2016 a Muslim man and his wife were conducting the final walk-through of a home they had placed under contract. As the man arrived for the walk through, Howard approached him, the seller and the accompanying realtors, and yelled, “This sale will not take place!”
Howard threatened to burn the house down, and told the Muslim man that he wasn't welcome there.
The man and his wife hurried away and canceled the closing of the purchase that was scheduled for the next day.
In the following days, Howard re-told his story to neighbors, making insulting remarks about Muslims, officials said.
“This Justice Department will not stand by when individuals use violence and intimidation to deny fair housing rights,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said in the release. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to prosecute crimes like this one that deprive families of a safe place to live.”