(Tampa, FL, 5/9/2016)Â â€“ TheÂ Council on American-Islamic Relations – FloridaÂ (CAIR-Florida), the stateâ€™s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, today welcomed the one-year-plus-one-day sentence imposed on Martin Alan Schnitzler at the U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The convicted felon will be serving his sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty.
He admitted in February to leaving threatening voicemails for the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg and the Islamic Society of Pinellas County. Schnitzler faced up to 20 years in prison for the federal crime of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs.
CAIR-Florida contacted the Department of Justice, which took the lead on a new investigation and the eventual arrest and prosecution of the now convicted felon. CAIR-Floridaâ€™s Communications Director, Wilfredo Ruiz, said the cooperation between the organization and the Department of Justice was, â€œan example on how we need to stay vigilant at all levels of law enforcement, and maintain open lines of communication with them. The DOJ was responsive to our request and sent a clear message that criminal threats will not be tolerated in our society.â€
CAIR-Florida has recently seen a tremendous increase in reports of hate-related incidents throughout the state.Â Schnitzlerâ€™s threats constituted two of the twenty-six threats reported to CAIR-Florida last year, up from five reported in 2014. At the sentencing hearing, CAIR-Florida attorney Maryam Saleh said, â€œPerhaps more concerning than the increase in hate-related incidents is their impact on the Muslim-American community. Both the Islamic Society of Pinellas County and the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg reported a drop in attendance at their Mosques as a result of Schnitzlerâ€™s threats.â€
When imposing the sentence, JudgeÂ James D. WhittemoreÂ told the accused Schnitzler, â€œYou may be upset about what happened in Paris but there are better ways to cope than the way you did. That is not American.â€ Judge Whittemore also commented on the right of all Americans to exercise their religion freely and said it was clear that the voice messages â€œinstilled fearâ€ in the members of the Mosques.
Mr. Schnitzler extended his apologies to the Muslim community and said he was ashamed of wronging a group of people that did nothing wrong to him. Representatives of both Mosques were present at the sentencing hearing and accepted Mr. Schnitzlerâ€™s apology.
CAIR-Florida is the stateâ€™s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties of all people, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CAIR-Floridaâ€™s Communications Director, Wilfredo A. Ruiz,Â firstname.lastname@example.org, 305.502.6749
CAIR-Floridaâ€™s Chief Executive Officer, Hassan Shibly,Â email@example.com, 813.514.1414