An Iowa man has been sentenced to about 16 years in prison after he burned a church’s LGBT flag.
Adolfo Martinez, 30, was found guilty of stealing an LGBT banner that was being flown at Ames United Church of Christ. He then went to the Dangerous Curves Gentlemen’s Club and set the flag on fire outside the club, FaithWire reports.
He was charged with third-degree arson in violation of individual rights, including committing a hate crime, third-degree harassment and reckless use of fire as a habitual offender.
Pastor Eileen Gebbie of the Ames United Church of Christ posted a statement on the church Facebook page saying the church did not press charges against Martinez.
Martinez told police that he lit the banner on fire with lighter fluid and a lighter, according to the Des-Moines Register.
The hate crime charges were added because Martinez is suspected of criminal mischief against someone's property because of "what it represents as far as sexual orientation,” Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds said.
He is the first person in the county to be convicted of a hate crime, she added.
Martinez faced a maximum of five years in prison for the hate crime and arson charge. He also faced a maximum of 13 months for the other charges, but because he is a habitual offender, he was eligible to be sentenced to a longer term.
“Basically, he was looking at three years but as soon as he opened his mouth and said 'This is why I did it,' he gave them the motivation of why it occurred and he turned it into a hate crime,” said Drake University Law Professor Bob Rigg.
Ames police say they are providing more officers around the Ames United Church of Christ where Martinez stole the banner.
Police Commander Jason Tuttle said the extra patrol was called because of social media posts protesting Martinez’ sentencing.
Photo courtesy: Kirsty Lee/Unsplash
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.