Man Sentenced To 15 Years For Burning Church's Pride Flag

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Submitted by Take Out on Fri, 12/20/2019 - 14:49

A US judge has handed down a sentence of at least 15 years to a man who stole an LGBT pride flag from a church and burned it outside a strip club.

Adolfo Martinez, 30, admitted to the media that he took the flag from Ames United Church of Christ due to his animosity towards homosexuals.

He was found guilty last month of hate crime harassment, reckless use of fire and being a habitual offender.

The incident occurred around midnight on 11 June in downtown Ames, Iowa.

Police say the crime spree began at Dangerous Curves, a strip club, when police were called because a man was making threats. By the time they arrived, he had already been kicked out by bar staff.

After leaving the club, Martinez then travelled to the church and ripped down its flag. He then returned to the strip club where he used lighter fluid to burn the flag in the street. He also threatened to burn down the bar.

He was arrested later that day, and told local media in a jail house interview that he was "guilty as charged".

"It was an honour to do that. It's a blessing from the Lord," he said, explaining that he did it because he "opposed homosexuality".

"I burned down their pride, plain and simple," he told KCCI-TV. The interview was entered into the trial as evidence against him.

Church pastor Eileen Gebbie, who identifies as gay woman, says she agrees that Martinez' actions were motivated by hatred.

"I often experienced Ames as not being as progressive as many people believe it is, and there still is a very large closeted queer community here," she told the Des Moines Register when he was convicted in November.

"But 12 people that I don't know, who have no investment in me or this congregation, said this man committed a crime, and it was a crime borne of bigotry and hatred."

Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds said Martinez was the first person in the county's history to be convicted of a hate crime.

"The hard reality is there are people who target individuals and commit crimes against individuals because of their race, gender, sexual orientation," she told the Ames Tribune.

"And when that happens it's so important that as a society we stand up and people have severe consequences for those actions."