The Justice Department today announced that Marq Perez, 26, was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison for burning down the Victoria Islamic Center on Jan. 28, 2017. Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Justice Departmentâ€™s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick for the Southern District of Texas, Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI made the announcement.
A jury found Perez guilty on July 16, for a hate crime in the burning of the Victoria Islamic Center (the mosque) on Jan. 28, 2017, and for the use of fire to commit a federal felony. In addition, the jury found that Perez possessed an unregistered destructive device for a separate but related incident that occurred on Jan. 15, 2017.
â€˜Everyone in this country has the right to worship freely
without fear of violence,â€ said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore.
â€˜This defendant terrorized the Muslim community in
â€˜The Attorney General has said that the Freedom of religion is indeed our â€˜first freedomâ€™â€”being the first listed right of our First Amendment,â€ said Patrick. â€˜The Department of Justice prosecutes violent and dangerous crime, but also, and particularly when that crime interferes with someoneâ€™s ability to practice their religious faith. Not only was this a dangerous and potentially deadly act, but also one spurred from hate. I am glad justice was served in this case.â€
â€˜ATF is the primary federal law enforcement agency tasked with investigating House of Worship Fires and views an arson against a house of worship as not just an attack on a building, but as an attack against an entire community,â€ said Milanowski. â€˜ATF is pleased the defendant has been held accountable for this crime and will continue to respond to these violent crimes using all available resources.â€