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Man guilty of setting South Texas mosque on fire out of hate for Muslims

Posted: 5:57 PM, Jul 16, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-16 18:57:32-04

VICTORIA, Texas – The man who was charged for setting a mosque in Victoria, Texas on fire has been found guilty today.  After five days of trial, jurors returned this afternoon with guilty verdicts on all counts charged against Marq Vincent Perez.

The jury found Marq Vincent Perez, 26, of Victoria, was responsible for a hate crime in the burning of the Victoria Islamic Center Jan. 28, 2017, and for use of a fire to commit a felony. In addition, they found he possessed an unregistered destructive device for an incident that occurred on Jan. 15, 2017.

Read more:   Trial for suspected mosque arsonist underway

“Hate crimes are not only an attack on a specific victim, they threaten the cornerstone of diversity that America was built upon,” said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner. “Perpetrators of hate crimes, like Perez, aim to chip away at our nation’s foundations by instilling fear into entire communities with violence.”

Read more:   Victoria Islamic Center destroyed by fire ruled arson

The jury heard from a total of 19 government witnesses who testified about communications with Perez, one of whom detailed how Perez called Muslims “towelheads.” An FBI agent took the stand and described hate-filled messages found on Perez’s Facebook account.  

Testimony in court detailed how Perez had planned the event and talked about how he had done “recon” of the mosque in the days leading up to the fire. A witness who was with Perez on the night of the fire described how excited Perez was upon seeing the mosque in flames, explaining that he was “jumping up and down like a little kid.”

Additional evidence also revealed that items taken during two burglaries at the mosque were found at his home as was an improvised bomb similar to what was used in an attempted car-bombing approximately two weeks prior to the fire.

The jury also heard from an arson expert who concluded the fire was the result of an “intentional application of an open flame.”

Perez faces up to 20 years in federal prison for the hate crime and up to 10 years for possessing an unregistered destructive device. For use of a fire to commit a felony, the penalty is a consecutive and mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. All of the counts also carry a potential $250,000 fine. Sentencing has been set for Oct. 2, 2018.  

He has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.

ATF and FBI conducted the investigation along with the City of Victoria Fire Marshal’s Office, Victoria Fire Department, Victoria Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety – Criminal Investigations Division and Texas Rangers with assistance of Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office and sheriff’s offices in Victoria and Nueces Counties.