Sentencing hearing Wednesday for man in Austin synagogue arson case

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – The man who pled guilty in the 2021 arson of an Austin synagogue will face a sentencing hearing Wednesday.

Franklin Barrett Sechriest pleaded guilty in April to arson and hate crime damage to a religious property.

In October 2021, arson investigators responded to a fire that started on the ground outside of Congregation Beth Israel in central Austin.

According to the government’s sentencing memorandum filed on Nov. 20, normal sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of 60-63 months or 5 years.

However, prosecutors asked Judge David Ezra to sentence Sechriest to 120 months or 10 years in prison due to the “tremendous damage” they say Sechriest did and what they call “his deep-seated hatred of persons of the Jewish faith.”

On Monday, Judge Ezra told the lawyers on both sides he “intends to seriously consider an upward variance from the stated guidelines” in part because of “all of the circumstances of this crime.”

According to a court filing, Sechriest’s attorney Daniel H. Wannamaker asked Judge Ezra for a continuance in the sentencing hearing on Tuesday so he could explain the “significance of the judge’s note” to his client. Wannamaker said Sechriest has “several mental and emotional conditions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, Tourette’s Disorder, and Attention Disorder and Hyperactivity Disorder, which require more time to consult with Mr. Sechriest and for Counsel to prepare and provide effective counsel.”

The judge rejected the defense request and said Wednesday’s hearing would continue as scheduled.

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