Nineteen-year-old Franklin Sechriest pleaded guilty to hate crime and arson charges in April and was also ordered to pay $470,000 in restitution for setting the fire, federal prosecutors announced on Wednesday.
Sechriest, of San Marcos, previously admitted he set the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue on fire on 31 October 2021 “because of his hatred of Jews”.
Journals obtained by authorities helped connect the teenager to the attack. On the day of the incident, he wrote, “I set a synagogue on fire”. In a previous entry, he said he went to the synagogue three days before the incident to “scout out a target”.
When he visited, he sat in the parking lot outside of the religious institution’s sanctuary, officials said.
In another entry dated days after the attack, Sechriest further explained how he was keeping up with media reports to track the progress of the arson’s ongoing investigation.
Officials said the man separately owned decals and stickers with antisemitic messages.
Surveillance footage from the night of the incident caught Sechriest carrying a five-gallon container and toilet paper toward the synagogue’s sanctuary.
Shortly after, a fire was spotted coming from that direction, according to the news release. Sechriest was spotted jogging away from the scene toward an open driver’s side door of a car, officials said.
When he is released from prison he will also have to carry out three years of supervised release.
“This hate-filled act of violence against a house of worship as an attempt to sow fear in the Jewish community and was intended to intimidate its congregants,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said.
“Attacks targeting Jewish people and arsons aimed at desecrating synagogues have no place in our society today.”