An Iowa man has been sentenced to 16 years in jail after burning an LGBTQ Pride flag that was flying at an affirming church in central Iowa.
Adolfo Martinez, 30, of Ames, was found guilty last month on charges of arson, reckless use of explosives or fire, and harassment, as well as being a habitual offender — which carries additional penalties.
In total, the arson charge carries a 15-year sentence, the fire-related charge carries a year, and harassment carries 30 days.
All sentences will be served consecutively, meaning Martinez will spend the better part of two decades in prison for ripping down the flag from the United Church of Christ in Ames on June 11 because of his personal opposition to homosexuality.
Police say that Martinez stole the flag after being kicked out of Dangerous Curves, a local strip club, where police had been called because a man was making threats, reports BBC News.
After leaving the club, Martinez went to the church, ripped down the flag, and returned to the strip club, using lighter fluid to burn the flag in the street. He also allegedly threatened to burn down the bar.
In an interview with Des Moines’ CBS affiliate KCCI, Martinez said it was an “honor” to burn down the flag, adding “I burned down their pride, plain and simple.” The interview was used as evidence against him in his trial.
“It is written, it is a judgment and it is written, to execute judgment upon the heathen and punishments upon the people,” Martinez said, citing his religious beliefs. “It’s a blessing from the Lord to be able to stand for his word firmly, against all odds, plain and simple.
“I wish no harm on any individual. However, if you guys are going to bring it forth and address it in such a manner, then by all means necessary, bring it forth, bro. I have God on my side.”
Courtney Reyes, the executive director of the LGBTQ group One Iowa, told NBC News that while her organization appreciates that prosecutors took the incident seriously in pursuing charges against Martinez, “we will continue to strive for a justice system which values restoration over punishment and helps individuals like Adolfo Martinez understand the harm that they’ve caused.”
“Hate crimes against the LGBTQ community are a serious matter as they inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and strike fear into the communities they target,” Reyes said. “That said, true justice should always strive to be about rehabilitation, reconciliation, and healing communities. It is difficult to see how a 16-year prison sentence accomplishes any of those goals.”
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