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Texas man who burned synagogue pleads guilty to hate crime, arson charge

April 7 (UPI) -- A Texas man accused of setting fire to a synagogue in Austin, Texas, in October 2021 has pleaded guilty to a hate crime and arson charge.

According to a press release from the Justice Department, Franklin Sechriest of San Marcos, Texas, targeted the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue "because of his hatred of Jews."

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"His journals were replete with virulent antisemitic statements and views. Sechriest also possessed several decals and stickers expressing antisemitic messages," the Justice Department said.

Sechriest was captured on security footage approaching the synagogue with a five-gallon container and toilet paper. Shortly afterward, the light from flames can be seen at the building and Sechriest is seen running into the open door of a nearby vehicle.

According to court statements and documents, Sechriest drove to the synagogue's parking lot on October 28, 2021, in order to "scout out a target." In a journal entry dated October 31, 2021, Sechriest wrote "I set a synagogue on fire."

"In the days following the arson, Sechriest's journal noted that he was actively monitoring media reports to track the progress of the investigation into the arson," the Justice Department said.

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Sechriest is scheduled to be sentenced on June 23 and could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

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