The man who set fire to an Iowa church’s rainbow flag has received a 15-year prison sentence.
Adolfo Martinez was convicted of a hate crime for stealing the flag in June from the Ames United Church of Christ, then burning the flag outside the Dangerous Curves Gentleman’s Club, according to The Des Moines Register. A jury found him guilty of the crime last month.
He was sentenced Wednesday in Story County District Court to 15 years in prison for being a habitual offender and two years on the hate-crime charge, to be served concurrently, the Ames Tribune reports. He will not be eligible for parole until he has served three years.
Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds said the state tried Martinez under hate-crime statutes because of the defendant’s stated animus toward LGBTQ individuals. He was the first person in the county to be convicted of a hate crime.
“The hard reality is there are people who target individuals and commit crimes against individuals because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, and when that happens it’s so important that as a society we stand up and people have severe consequences for those actions,” Reynolds said, according to the Tribune.
Martinez previously told KCCI, the CBS affiliate in Des Moines, he had no regrets over the crime.
“This was about homosexuality?" a reporter for the station asked him.
"Yes, yes, yes. Exactly," Martinez replied. "I burned down their pride, plain and simple … I'm guilty as charged.” And in court, just before receiving his sentence, he said he was "living by God's laws" and would never cease to do so, the Tribune reports.
Police say that the night of the crime last June, Martinez had gone to Dangerous Curves, but was “acting out and making threats” and was ejected from the club. Police were called, but he had left before officers arrived. But police say he returned to the club and threatened to burn it down, along with the flag at the nearby church. He then got the flag and set it on fire in the street.
The incident was part of a rash of high-profile vandalism around the country targeting rainbow flags, many of them flying at LGBTQ-affirming churches.