TAMPA, FL – A Tampa man has pleaded guilty to one count of threatening, intimidating and interfering with a Muslim family’s enjoyment of their housing rights.
In U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, Tuesday, Feb. 27, David H. Howard, 59, admitted to threatening to burn down a home being purchased by a Muslim family on Davis Islands in Tampa.
On Nov. 3, 2016, Kaderbhai and Sehera Ali Asgar, along with Sehera Asgar’s parents, were conducting a final walk-through of a 2,766-square-foot home they placed under contract to purchase for $685,000 at 632 Luzon Ave. in Davis Islands.
The family is of Indian descent so the women were wearing head scarves and long skirts customarily worn by Indian women while Kaderbhai Asgar wore a traditional Muslim woven cap.
According to court documents, Howard, who lives nearby, approached the family, their real estate agent and the seller, Herb Donica, and yelled, "This sale will not take place!"
Using profanity, Howard reportedly told the couple, "You are not welcome here," and said he would break all of the windows in the home and then burn it down if the sale proceeded.
The Asgars hurried away and cancelled the closing on the home scheduled the next day.
According to court records, Howard then bragged to neighbors about chasing the couple away and made "insulting remarks about Muslims."
Following an FBI investigation, the U.S. Justice Department filed charges against Howard, saying he violated federal law by intimidating and interfering with a Muslim family’s right to purchase a home in the community of their choice.
"The Department of Justice will not tolerate illegal threats or acts of intimidation against any individual because of their religious beliefs," said Acting Assistant Attorney John Gore of the Civil Rights Division. "The Civil Rights Division will continue to work tirelessly to prosecute hate crime offenders."
"Individuals and families should have the right to live wherever they choose, without intimidation or fear," said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Maria Chapa Lopez. "Crimes perpetrated against people because of their race, ethnicity, color or religious beliefs simply cannot be tolerated. And, we will prosecute those who commit these crimes to the fullest extent possible."
FBI Tampa Division Special Agent in Charge Eric W. Sporre said these types of hate crimes not only threaten individuals, they intimidate the entire community.
"Reporting these types of crimes along with cooperation of the community is critical to ensuring a successful outcome in cases like this," he said.
A sentencing date has not yet been set. Howard faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine up to $250,000.
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