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Seminole man accused of threatening mosques accepts plea agreement

By Elaine Silvestrini, For The Tampa Tribune, On 28 January 2016, Read Original
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TAMPA — A Seminole man charged with making threatening phone calls to Pinellas County mosques after the Paris terrorist attack has agreed to plead guilty to a federal offense, according to court filings.

Martin Alan Schnitzler faces up to 20 years in federal prison, but will likely get a more lenient sentence under a plea agreement filed late Monday in U.S. District Court in Tampa. Schnitzler is scheduled to plead guilty next month to a charge of obstructing persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs.

According to the agreement, signed by Schnitzler, on Nov. 13, Schnitzler made calls to the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg and the Islamic Society of Pinellas County, leaving profanity-laced messages threatening to get a militia, bomb the mosques and shoot people because he was “tired of” the terrorism.

“Guard your children,” he said in one message. “I don’t care if you’re extremists or not. I’m tired of your f------ s---. Get out of my f------ country.”

Hatem Jaber, who said he is part of the administration at the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg said he thinks Schnitzler needs to be dealt with more harshly, but he is being given special handling because he is white.

“We live in a country that is governed by laws,” Jaber said. “If somebody breaks the law, they should be treated just like everybody else. No special treatment be cause of your color. ... There is privileged treatment towards white people. If you’re any other color but white, usually the maximum sentences and guidelines are much stiffer.”

Jaber said Schnitzler should be prosecuted for “a terrorist act.” He said the mosque’s weekend school had to shut down for two weeks because families were terrified after Schnitzler’s threat, and to this day, many children still do not attend the school because of their parents’ fears.

“At least a bare minimum of 20 kids have stopped coming because their parents stopped bringing them due to the fact that mosques are a target,” Jaber said. “I don’t even know what they’re going to give him. Maybe a slap on the wrist and tell him to move on, I don’t know. Had he been black or brown or any other color I don’t think it would have been this quickly settled.”

According to the plea agreement, Schnitzler admitted to the FBI that he made the threats and that he wasn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He told the agent that what he had done was “stupid and wrong.”

Authorities determined he was not an actual threat after a search of his apartment showed he had no weapons or explosives to carry it out.

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