Anybody who steals someone else’s private property and then burns it to smoldering ash deserves some kind of punishment under the law, but do they deserve a full 16 years in prison if this act of vandalism is charged as a “hate crime?” One Iowa man now finds himself at the center of that controversial question.
“A man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for burning an LGBTQ flag that was flying at a church in central Iowa,” reports the Associated Press.
For the crime of reckless use of explosives or fire, 30-year-old Adolfo Martinez received one year in prison. For the crime of harassment, he received just 30 days. For the hate crime of burning an LGBT rainbow pride flag, Martinez received a full 15 years.
“The sentences are to be served consecutively, Story County court records show,” continued the Associated Press. “A jury convicted Martinez in November. He was arrested in June. Martinez said he tore down the flag that had been hanging from the United Church of Christ in Ames and burned it because he opposes homosexuality.”
As already stated, Martinez clearly committed a crime when he stole the rainbow flag from the Ames United Church of Christ and set fire to it outside the Dangerous Curves Gentleman’s Club, but the sentencing of 15 years has sparked a broader debate on whether or not the government overreached, especially in light of the fact that burning the American flag is now considered protected speech. People took to social media to voice their concerns.
“[Sixteen] years. This guy just got 16 years in prison for burning the flag of a state-protected group. For context, the average sentence for rape is under ten years. Hate crime laws are out of control,” tweeted Joel Kurtinitis, a contributor to The Federalist. “[Fifteen] of the 16 years were *just* for the hate crime. The actual vandalism sentence was under a year.”
“Unbelievable. We said decades ago, hate crimes laws are insane and dangerous. They would be abused. We were told we were heartless. And now, today,” tweeted pastor James White.