Missouri Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Hate Crimes and Charges of Arson at Islamic Center | GIVE | Jobs Recent

The Department of Justice announced that a Missouri man has pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge for setting fire to the Cape Girardeau Islamic Center (the Center) in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

According to court documents, on April 24, 2020, which was the first morning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, at approximately 4:50 am, Nicholas John Proffitt, 48, set fire to the Islamic Center at 298 Northwest End Boulevard, Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The Center’s video security system showed Proffitt throwing several objects through the building’s glass window, causing it to shatter. Proffitt threw two containers into the Center through a broken window and climbed through the window to enter the Center. He then poured the contents of two large containers throughout the foyer and into the hallway. Proffitt lit two fires that immediately spread throughout the house. The Islamic Center building was severely damaged which made it unfit for use as a place of worship. Proffitt admitted that he set the fire at the Islamic Center because of the religious nature of the building.

“Attacks on houses of worship, like the Cape Girardeau Islamic Center, strike at the center of religious freedom and recognition,” said Assistant Attorney Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who target religious organizations and communities.”

“This is the second time Nicholas Proffitt has attacked the Islamic Center in Cape Girardeau, and the third time he has attacked a house of worship,” said United States Attorney Sayler A. Fleming of the Eastern District of Missouri. “He put the occupants of that building at risk of death or serious injury, and he will be punished for his actions with a substantial prison sentence.”

“The FBI recently released 2021 statistics on hate crime incidents nationwide. In Missouri, incidents reported to law enforcement jumped by nearly 70%,” said Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg of the FBI St. Louis Field Office. terrible in recent years. As such, the FBI and our law enforcement partners have left no stone unturned to bring Nicholas Proffitt and other perpetrators to justice. “

“The Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has a long tradition of investigating fires and arson. “There is no skill that is more important than a fire like this,” said Special Agent in Charge Fred Winston of the ATF Kansas City Field Division. “If a house of worship is intentionally set on fire, it is not only the congregation that suffers, but the whole community. Places of worship, churches and mosques are often at the center of our communities, providing sanctuaries of peace and care for those in need. Today’s guilty plea is the result of local, state and federal law enforcement working together to ensure justice in this unthinkable act. “

Sentencing is scheduled for May 2, 2023. Proffitt is sentenced to 20 years in prison for damaging religious property and is required to serve a minimum of 10 years in prison, consecutive to any sentence, for using fire to commit a civil felony. Proffitt also faces a fine of up to $250,000 on each charge.

Cape Girardeau Police Department, FBI St. Louis Field Office, ATF, Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office and Perryville Police Department investigated the case.

Assistant US Attorney Paul Hahn of the Eastern District of Missouri and District Attorney Noah Coakley II of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.

For more information and resources on the department’s efforts to combat hate crimes, visit www.justice.gov/hatecrimes.

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