The Minnesota man who firebombed a Somali-owned coffee shop in North Dakota has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his racially-motivated attack.
WDAY reports that 26-year-old Matthew Gust, of East Grand Forks, was given the sentence in federal court for one count of “malicious use of explosive materials” and one count of “interference with a federally protected activity.”
In a statement after the hearing on Tuesday, Gust’s attorney Ted Sandberg told WDAY Gust’s family thinks the sentence “is a little harsh,” but that Gust “agrees with the sentence,” although he added that it “doesn’t mean he’s happy with it.”
It follows an arson attack on the Juba Coffee House and Restaurant in nearby Grand Forks last December, which saw Gust throw a 40-ounce beer bottle filled with gasoline through the window of the cafe, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.
In the days prior to the fire, the cafe was defaced with graffiti including the words “go home,” as well as a swastika.
Gust was initially facing up to 35 years in prison, but agreed to a plea deal in exchange for a guilty plea this past spring, which will see him serve 15 years.
According to WDAZ, prosecutors told the court that Gust did not like Somalis and wanted them out of the area, but Gust said he was “out for revenge” because “several men of Somali descent” previously robbed him and a member of his family.
But in court, Gust told the judge: “I accept full responsibility for what I’ve done…I don’t hate anyone, I wasn’t thinking straight.”
North Dakota U.S. Attorney Chris Myers said after that the sentence “sends a strong message to all members of our community that such conduct will not be tolerated,” WDAZ notes.
A GoFundMe page to help the owners of Juba get back on their feet after losing all of their income raised almost $25,000 earlier this year.