An ex-convict Messianic Jew who set fire to an Orlando mosque was sentenced to 30 years in prison on February 6. Joseph Schreiber pleaded no contest to setting fire to the Islamic Centre of Fort Pierce on September 11, 2016.
The 32-year-old was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution, although damages exceeded $100,000. The damage to the mosque was so extensive that its leaders recently announced that it will have to move.
CCTV footage from the mosque showed Schreiber driving up to the mosque on a motorcycle and approaching the building while talking on a mobile phone. He carried a bottle of liquid and some papers and left when there was a flash.
The first 911 calls were made about 45 minutes later after the fire had spread to the attic. It took about four-and-a-half hours for firefighters to extinguish the blaze. No one was injured in the fire.
At his sentencing, he said that he was not motivated by hate, but by anxiety that there might be another attack like Omar Mateen’s assault on a gay nightclub, Pulse, which saw 49 people murdered and 53 injured in July last year. Schreiber made the remarks in a letter that he read to the court.
In the letter, Schreiber also called on Muslim communities “to make peace with America, make peace with Israel and stop the attacks.”
Despite his claims that he was motivated by anxiety, prosecutor Steve Gosnell said Schreiber told police he believed Muslims “are trying to infiltrate our government” and that “the teaching of Islam should be complete, completely illegal.”
He also posted on Facebook last July that “All Islam is radical” and that all Muslims should be treated as terrorists and criminals.
Last September, a former inmate who served time with Schreiber at the faith-based Lawtey Correctional Institution, described Schreiber as being a ‘couple cans short of a six-pack.’
Ralph Alfonso said Schreiber joined a Messianic Jewish group he led because he was looking for a place to fit in.
He said Schreiber sometimes would say something negative about Muslims, but “we would tell him that’s not what we believe, that it is not godly.”