A man who threatened to burn down a house a Muslim family was buying in Florida is going to prison

  • A man approached a Muslim couple who had been preparing to finalise their purchase of a home in Tampa, Florida. He yelled obscenities at them, and threatened to burn the house down.
  • “This sale will not take place,” David Howard yelled, according to a statement from the US Justice Department. He told the husband and wife, who were doing the final walkthrough of the home in the Davis Islands neighbourhood in November 2016, “You are not welcome here.”
  • The couple left the property and canceled the sale. Howard later told neighbours what he did and made other insulting remarks about Muslims, the DOJ said.
  • Howard has been sentenced to eight months in prison and ordered to pay $US30,000 in restitution.

A man who threatened a Muslim couple as they prepared to buy a house in Tampa, Florida, is going to prison, and he’s been ordered to pay $US30,000 in restitution.

The US Justice Department said David Howard approached the couple as they were doing a final walkthrough of a home they were buying in the Davis Islands neighbourhood in November 2016. He yelled, “this sale will not take place,” and “you are not welcome here.” According to a DOJ press release, the couple left the property and canceled the sale, which had been set to close the next day.

Howard later told neighbours about what he did, and made more disparaging remarks about Muslims, the DOJ said.

The incident followed escalating hostilities toward Muslims in the heat of what had been a rancorous US presidential election, during which then-candidate Donald Trump at one point called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the US.

In a statement on Howard’s sentencing, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore made clear that the Justice Department “will not stand by when individuals use violence and intimidation to deny fair housing rights.”

“The Civil Rights Division will continue to prosecute crimes like this one that deprive families of a safe place to live,” Gore said.

US Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez added that Howard’s sentence “should send a clear message that we will vigorously uphold our nation’s civil rights laws. Crimes perpetrated against people because of who they are or what they believe simply cannot be tolerated,” Lopez said.

Trump has frequently been less charitable toward Muslims. Comments he made about them on the campaign trail resurfaced earlier this year, during Supreme Court arguments over his travel ban that targeted some majority-Muslim countries shortly after he took office.