Texas Nazi Pleads Guilty To Torching Austin Synagogue

From the Justice Department:

A Texas man pleaded guilty today to a hate crime and arson in connection with a fire he set at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 31, 2021.

According to court documents and admissions made during the plea hearing, three days before the arson, on Oct. 28, 2021, Franklin Sechriest of San Marcos, Texas, drove to the synagogue’s parking lot outside its sanctuary.

According to journals recovered from Sechriest, he went there to “scout out a target.” Sechriest admitted that he targeted the synagogue because of his hatred of Jews, and his journals were replete with virulent antisemitic statements and views. Sechriest also possessed several decals and stickers expressing antisemitic messages.

The night of the arson, Sechriest drove to the synagogue and was seen on surveillance video carrying a five-gallon container and toilet paper toward the synagogue’s sanctuary. Moments later, multiple surveillance videos captured the glow of a fire from the direction of the sanctuary.

A security camera captured Sechriest jogging away from the direction of the fire and toward the open driver’s side door of a vehicle.

A concerned citizen reported the fire, and the Austin Fire Department responded quickly to extinguish it. In Sechriest’s journal, in an entry dated Oct. 31, 2021, he wrote “I set a synagogue on fire.”

In the days following the arson, Sechriest’s journal noted that he was actively monitoring media reports to track the progress of the investigation into the arson. The sentencing is set for June 23. Sechriest faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.