Arsonist gets 30 years in Florida mosque fire

Arsonist gets 30 years in Florida mosque fire
A man shows members of the media the charred remains of the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce in Florida, in this file photo. (AP)
Updated 08 February 2017

Arsonist gets 30 years in Florida mosque fire

Arsonist gets 30 years in Florida mosque fire

FORT PIERCE, Fla: An ex-convict who posted anti-Islamic rants online pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Monday for setting fire to a mosque that the Orlando nightclub shooter attended occasionally.
Joseph Schreiber, dressed in a burned orange jumpsuit, his wrists and ankles shackled, pleaded no contest during Monday’s hearing before Circuit Judge Steven Levin. A no contest plea is treated the same as a guilty plea. Schreiber answered Levin’s questions in a clear, unwavering voice before sentencing. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution although damages exceeded $100,000. Because he was declared a habitual offender, he could have received a life sentence.
He had confessed to detectives that he set fire to the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce last Sept. 11, the 15th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The damage to the mosque was so extensive that the leaders recently announced that it will move.
Omar Mateen was killed by police after opening fire at the Pulse nightclub on June 12 in a rampage that left 49 victims dead and 53 wounded, making it the worst mass shooting in modern US history. Mateen professed allegiance to the Daesh group. His father is among roughly 100 people who regularly attend the mosque.
Schreiber, who is Jewish, posted on Facebook last July that “All Islam is radical” and that all Muslims should be treated as terrorists and criminals.
Prosecutor Steve Gosnell said Schreiber, 32, confessed to detectives that he set the fire, saying he believed Muslims “are trying to infiltrate our government” and that “the teaching of Islam should be completely, completely illegal.”
Before he was sentenced, Schreiber read a written statement entitled “From the Mountaintops, Stop the Killings” where he said the fire was not caused by hate but by his anxiety. He feared that Florida could be the site of another 9-11, Boston Marathon bombing or Pulse nightclub shooting, he said.
“My message is this to all the Muslim communities on the face of the Earth — make peace with America and make peace with Israel and stop the killings, stop the attacks,” he said.
Schreiber then turned to a man he thought was the mosque’s imam and apologized. Mosque member Mohammad Malik whispered “thank you” in return.
“In the Islamic faith and in all faiths, we believe that God is merciful and just as we want to be forgiven by Him we should also forgive,” Malik said after the hearing. “I believe he was misled. Misled by fear mongering, misled by false information” about Islam. He said the “bright spot” of the fire is that the local Jewish and Islamic communities are now communicating.