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Iowa Man Faces Charges After Burning LGBT Pride Banner

February 12th, 2020

An Iowa man was given a 16-year prison sentence for stealing and setting fire to an LGBT pride banner, but the facts of the case explain the harsh sentence.
An Iowa man was given a 16-year prison sentence for stealing and setting fire to an LGBT pride banner, but the facts of the case explain the harsh sentence.

In December 2019, several reports began circulating that a man in Iowa was given a 16-year prison sentence for burning an LGBT pride banner. The Western Journal website even claimed that the man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the hate crime of arson. The UK publication, the Sun, claimed that the man received a 16-year sentence and noted that this sentence greatly exceeds the average rape conviction in the United States. These articles, however, leave out some important details in this case.

How the Pride Banner Case Arose

Ames, Iowa law enforcement arrested the man on June 11, 2019, after the man was reported to have caused a disturbance at a local bar. He came to the bar with an LGBT pride banner that he stole from the Ames United Church of Christ and proceeded to set it on fire. The man later admitted that his criminal offenses were motivated by antipathy towards homosexuals and that he had “burned down their pride.” The man is additionally reported to have threatened to burn down a church.

Despite confessing, the man pleaded not guilty to the charges of third-degree arson, third-degree harassment, and reckless use of fire or explosives. A jury later convicted the man on all three charges.

While it is true that the man ultimately received 15 years in prison for the offense of third-degree arson related to the pride banner, the man had two previous convictions. Under Iowa law, this means that the man was sentenced as a habitual offender, which led to his increased prison sentence. The offense was also found to be a hate crime, which also resulted in an increased prison term.

Applicable Iowa Law

A third-degree assault conviction in Iowa normally results in a two-year prison sentence. Because the flag was an LGBT symbol and the suspect expressed his motivation, a hate crime enhancement was added to the offense. Iowa law requires that some offenses are classified and punished as one degree higher than the underlying offense. As a result, the man’s conviction was elevated to an aggravated misdemeanor for a Class D felony.

In Iowa, Class D felonies are subject to a maximum prison sentence of five years. Because the man had two previous felonies, however, he was designated as a “habitual offender.” Iowa law states that the maximum sentence for a habitual offender is 15 years. Due to the man’s “dangerous” nature and his perceived lack of remorse, prosecutors in the case recommended that he receive the maximum sentence.

Continue Reading the Universal Life Church Blog

Despite substantial advancement over the last decade for LGBT rights, there were a countless number of violent acts committed against LGBTQ individuals in the past decade. In fact, last year the FBI reported anti-gay hate crimes are on the rise. In many cases, courts have struggled to analyze exactly how these cases should be treated. Each week, the Universal Life Church focuses on blogging about the most recent developments in LGBTQ rights.

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