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Suspect in Austin synagogue arson fire faces federal charges

Posted at 4:43 PM, Nov 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-17 17:43:35-05

An 18-year-old man arrested as a suspect in the Austin synagogue arson fire now faces federal charges.

Franklin Barrett Sechriest was charged Monday with arson for the Oct. 31 fire at Congregation Beth Israel, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Austin.

A complaint alleges that Sechriest wrote racist and antisemitic entries in his journal, including “scout a target” the day of the fire.

In the following days, he wrote in his journal, “I set a synagogue on fire,” according to excerpts in the affidavit.

Officials also searched Sechriest’s home and found what they said was other evidence linking him to the fire.

Sechriest was already charged in state district court in Travis County with arson for the fire. He was turned over to federal custody on Monday and remained detained pending a Nov. 30 detention hearing.

If convicted, Sechriest could be sentenced to up to 20 years in federal prison. His attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

FBI agents did not mention if they believed Sechriest was part of a more extensive network that has recently targeted the city’s Jewish community in a string of antisemitic incidents.