A suspect has pleaded guilty in connection with a Houston mosque fire that occurred on Christmas Day 2015.
The suspect who entered a guilty plea on an arson charge and was reportedly a regular worshipper at the mosque received a four-year prison sentence.
As the Inquisitr previously detailed, about 80 Houston firefighters responded to the two-alarm blaze at the storefront mosque, which is located at a local strip mall in the largest city in Texas. No one was injured in the fire, fortunately. Surveillance cameras from two nearby businesses allegedly showed the suspect leaving the mosque shortly before the fire broke out.
Cops executed a search warrant at the suspect’s home a few days after the fire and reportedly found a backpack and clothing that was the same as showing in the footage, as well as a bottle of lighter fluid matching the one recovered at the fire scene. “Prosecutors said just after the fire that Moore was seen on surveillance video leaving the building, and that authorities found lighter fluid at his home — the same accelerant found in the mosque,” AP noted.
The Houston Police Department, Fire Department, and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives all participated in the investigation.
The suspect was arrested in late December and apparently has been detained at the Harris County Jail since then on a $100,000 bond.
The Houston Chronicle outlined the specifics of the resolution of the arson case on a guilty plea in Harris County District Court.
“Gary Nathaniel Moore, 38 of Houston, was arrested last year in connection with a fire at 2 p.m. on Dec. 25 at a storefront mosque in the 1200 block of Wilcrest. Moore told investigators at the scene that he had attended the mosque for five years, coming five times per day to pray seven days per week, according to court records. Moore pleaded guilty to arson and using a fire as a deadly weapon, an enhancement which means he will have to serve at least half of the prison time before being eligible for parole.”
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for an investigation by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies into a “possible bias motive” in the Houston mosque fire.
“Investigators have said there was no evidence of the fire being a hate crime against the Islamic Society of Greater Houston mosque. Officials say Moore had worshipped at the mosque daily for several years.” AP explained in connection with the arson guilty plea.
According to various social media users, the Houston incident is another example of a hate crime hoax. Breitbart News claimed that the media was originally quick to blame the arson on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s controversial rhetoric, but lost interest in the case once authorities made an arrest of a suspect who was of the Muslim faith.
“The charging instrument stated that Gary Nathaniel Moore started a fire with the intent to destroy and damage a place of worship – the Savoy Masjid Mosque in Houston…Moore was facing up to 99 years in prison or life. Arson is normally a second degree felony punishable by two to twenty years in prison. When it is elevated to a first degree felony as it has been in this case, it is punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison if a person sets fire to a place of worship,” Breitbart explained.
The FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics for the year 2015 indicate that approximately 300 instances of anti-Muslim religious bias occurred last year, while nearly 700 anti-Jewish bias offenses took place in the same time frame
[Featured Image by Bob Levey/AP Images]