The Justice Department has announced that Martin Alan Schnitzler, 43, pleaded guilty to “obstructing persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs” in the Middle District of Florida for a Nov. 13, 2015 hate crime against Muslims. He is responsible for calling two mosques located in Pinellas County, Florida to make violent threats. Schnitzler claims that the terrorist attacks in Paris motivated him to place calls threatening to firebomb mosques and shoot the people inside.
This comes a month after a San Diego man pleaded guilty for threatening mosques by phone, despite his lawyer’s insistence that Fox News was responsible for frightening his client into making death threats on worshippers.
By Schnitzler’s own admission he told one mosque via voicemail that he threatened to “personally have a militia” brought to the mosque to “firebomb you, shoot whoever is there on sight in the head. I don’t care if they’re [expletive] two years old or a hundred.”
“Come find me, please. Please report me. ‘Cause I would love, love it,” Schnitzler said after identifying himself in one of the messages. Cops say he was easy to find because he identified himself by name in both messages, also describing himself as a “red-blooded American.”
Both mosques, Islamic Society of St. Petersburg and the Islamic Society of Pinellas County cancelled services after the threatening calls and needed to bring in extra law enforcement to protect their congregants and guarantee them a safe place to worship.
“Our Constitution and laws guarantee all people – regardless of where they worship – the right to live free from violence and discrimination,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Criminal threats of violence against people or places of worship have no place in our society, and as proven today, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute those who commit religion-based hate crimes.”
Schnitzler’s sentencing will take place at a later date. The maximum sentence he faces is 20 years, according to the Justice Department.