Man admits Ramadan attack on US Islamic centre

Nicholas Proffitt faces 20 years in jail for starting fire that destroyed building in 2020

Nicholas Proffitt has pleaded guilty to hate crime and arson charges. AP
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A man has pleaded guilty to hate crime and arson charges for starting a fire that destroyed an Islamic centre in south-east Missouri two years ago, the US Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Nicholas Proffitt entered the plea in the case of the torching of the Cape Girardeau Islamic Centre on April 24, 2020, which was the first day of Ramadan, the department said. It was the second time he had attacked the building.

Security video showed Proffitt breaking the building's glass window and throwing two containers inside. He then entered, poured the contents of two gallon-size containers throughout the foyer and the hallway and lit the blaze, according to court records.

About a dozen people were inside at the time but escaped unharmed. The fire made the building unsuitable for use as a centre.

Proffitt admitted he started the blaze because of the religious nature of the building, prosecutors said.

He will be sentenced on May 22. Proffitt faces up to 20 years in prison for damage to religious property and a mandatory minimum of 10 years, consecutive to any other sentence, for using fire to commit a federal offence. He also could be fined up to $250,000 on each charge.

In 2009, Proffitt pleaded guilty to state charges for throwing rocks that damaged the same mosque and a vehicle in the car park. He was sentenced to three years in prison in that incident.

Updated: December 14, 2022, 3:53 AM