A judge in Iowa has sentenced a man to at least 15 years in prison for stealing a Pride flag from outside a church and burning it outside a strip club.
The man, Adolfo Martinez, 30, admitted afterward that he had stolen and burned the flag because he doesn’t like gay people. Because of this admission, he was found guilty of a hate crime, in addition to arson and harassment.
The incident happened June 11 in Ames, Iowa, reports the BBC.
Police were called to a disturbance at Dangerous Curves Gentlemen’s Club, where Martinez was making threats to staff. By the time police arrived, the staff had ejected him from the premises.
He then apparently went to the nearby Ames United Church of Christ. The church had a rainbow Pride flag flying outside. Its senior minister, Rev. Eileen Gebbie, is a gay woman and told local media the flag is displayed as a sign of inclusion.
Ames ripped down the flag and went back to the strip club. He proceeded to douse it with lighter fluid and burn it, along with a tire, in the street. He also threatened to burn down the club.
He was arrested and subsequently gave an interview to KCCI-TV. He admitted his crime and said, “It’s my honor. It is written. It is a judgment and it’s written to execute vengeance on the heathen and punishments on the people. It was an honor to do that. It’s a blessing from the Lord.”
Asked directly if his crime “was about homosexuality,” he replied, “Yes, yes, yes. Exactly. I burned down their pride, plain and simple.”
The interview was used in evidence in the court. Martinez was found guilty last month of third-degree arson in violation of individual rights — hate crime, third-degree harassment, and reckless use of fire as a habitual offender. He returned to court this week for sentencing.
According to the Des Moines Register, he faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the hate crime and arson charge. However, the fact he is a habitual offender allowed the judge to increase the sentence.
He also got one year for the reckless use of explosives or fire, and 30 days for harassment – all of which will be served consecutively.