A man in Ames, Iowa, has been convicted of a hate crime for tearing down and burning a Pride flag that was hanging at a local church.
A jury rendered the verdict on Adolfo Martinez Wednesday, in a trial that marked the first time a hate crime had gone before a jury in Story County, the Ames Tribune reports.
Martinez, 30, was also convicted of third-degree harassment, reckless use of fire, and being a habitual offender. A sentencing date has not been set; he faces up to 15 years in prison.
Shortly after midnight June 11, Martinez was “acting out and making threats” at Dangerous Curves, an Ames nightclub featuring scantily clad female dancers, the Tribune reports. Police were called to the club, but he had been ejected by the time they arrived. He returned a short while later and told an employee he was going to burn the club down and also wanted to burn the LGBTQ Pride flag that was hanging at the Ames United Church of Christ. He left to get the flag, which he set on fire on a street near the club.
He was arrested that day, and while in jail he told a local TV station that he burned the flag because of his hostility to LGBTQ people and his objection to the church’s inclusive stance. The interview was submitted as evidence in his trial.
“Hate crimes will not be tolerated in our jurisdiction,” Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds told the Tribune. “Offenders will be held accountable.”