Tampa, Florida - The Justice Department today announced that David H. Howard, 59, of Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, to one count of threatening, intimidating, and interfering with a Muslim family’s enjoyment of their housing rights, in violation of Title 42 U.S.C. § 3631. Howard intimidated and interfered with the victims, who sought to purchase a home in the Davis Islands neighborhood of Tampa, Florida, by threatening to burn down the home, simply because it was being purchased by a Muslim family.
According to court documents, on November 3, 2016, a Muslim man, identified as K.A., and his wife were conducting the final walk-through of a home they had placed under contract. As K.A. arrived for the final walk-through, the defendant approached K.A. and the seller identified as H.D., and the accompanying realtors, and yelled, “This sale will not take place!” Howard threatened to burn the house down, and told K.A., “You are not welcome here!” K.A. and his wife hurried away from the house and cancelled the closing of the home purchase that was scheduled to take place the next day. In the days that followed, Howard retold his version of the incident to neighbors, making insulting remarks about Muslims.
“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 Maria Chapa Lopez for the Middle District of Florida. “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.”
“Hate motivated crimes are not only an attack on the victim, but are meant to threaten and intimidate an entire community," said FBI Tampa Division Special Agent in Charge Eric W. Sporre. “Reporting these types of crimes along with cooperation of the community is critical to ensuring a successful outcome in cases like this.”
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.
This case was investigated by the FBI. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Josephine W. Thomas of the Middle District of Florida and Trial Attorney William E. Nolan of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.