Missouri man gets 2 years for hate crimes directed at mosque

Missouri man gets 2 years for hate crimes directed at mosque

In threatening the Islamic Society of Augusta, Preston Howard tore into the very framework of the United States, a judge told the Missouri man who left a series of messages threatening to kill, maim, behead and set on fire the Muslim members and to destroy the mosque and the sacred book of Islam, the Koran.

“Whatever faith you chose – that goes to the heart of who we are as a nation,” U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hall said to Howard during his sentencing hearing Tuesday. “You understand these (calls) are terribly offensive. And they were directed at people who sadly, because of a lot of people who think like you did live in constant fear.”

Howard, of Wright, Mo., was sentenced to two years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. The Augusta Chronicle reported.

Howard told the judge and members of the mosque who came to the hearing that he is embarrassed and ashamed. He said he had been ignorant to believe that all Muslims were like the 9/11 attackers or the people in the YouTube videos he watched who beheaded children.

“For each one of you, I apologize,” Howard said.

During the seven and a half months he has been held without bond, Howard began to study Islam, he said, and he understands that terrorists do not represent all Muslims.

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Hall pressed Howard, however. What he saw in the per-sentencing report was a man of intolerance. “When you’re released from prison, who’s next?” Hall asked. Howard responded, “I am definitely not the same person.”

Defense attorney Hank Crane asked Hall to see mitigation in the change in Howard’s attitude, which had been fueled by the combination of the violent videos and excessive drinking. Howard had no criminal history and stopped calling the mosque once confronted by FBI agents in August 2017, Crane said.



Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Greenwood asked Hall to consider not only the vile messages left over a three-month period, but also other indications of Howard’s intolerance – the Confederate battle flag stickers covering his mailbox and the sticker of the president with a Hitler-style mustache overlaying a swastika, and the similar messages and symbols on his three Facebook pages. While Howard did stop calling the mosque, according to his phone records, he blocked his number when he made late-night calls to two numbers Greenwood traced to groups concerned with black lesbians and resisting fascism.

“I don’t believe that what happened to the Islamic Society of Augusta is an isolated incident,” Greenwood said.

Hall granted the federal prosecutor’s request to go above the federal sentencing guideline range of 15 to 21 months. He ordered Howard to immediately reimburse the mosque members for the $29,901 spent to increase security.

Speaking on the mosque’s behalf, Dr. Hossam Fadel told the judge that the members refused to be threatened away from their faith. The mosque founded in 1976 has grown into a community that provides food, clothing and medical care to those in need, opened a full-time school and opened its doors to everyone in the community.

“We are part and parcel of the CSRA community,” Fadel said.

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