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 ADL Welcomes Guilty Pleas by White Supremacists in Synagogue Arsons
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Posted: September 7, 2001

Two white supremacist brothers have pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with the June 1999 firebombings of three synagogues in Sacramento, Calif.

Benjamin Matthew Williams, 33, and James Tyler Williams, 31, admitted to setting fires that caused more than $3 million in damages. The fires caused extensive damage to the Congregation B’Nai Israel and Kenesset Israel Torah Center, both in Sacramento, and the Congregation Beth Shalom in Carmichael.

"We welcome the guilty pleas entered by Matthew and Tyler Williams and commend law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for pursuing justice in this case," said Jonathan Bernstein, San Francisco Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League.

"It is important that society send a strong message to those who would advocate similar acts of hatred. Acts of religious intimidation, such as these synagogue arsons, are especially harmful in the pain and fear they inflict on an entire community. We urge the prosecution in this case to seek the strongest possible sentence for each defendant, to ensure that such a horrific act will not be repeated again in California."

Matthew Williams allegedly has professed anti-Semitic, anti-gay and white supremacist views since his arrest. According to police, the brothers had left hate literature at the scene of one of the three synagogue arsons. The leaflets sought to blame Jews for the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia.

The two men had been charged with 13 counts of conspiracy to commit arson, arson, destruction of religious property and the use of fire to commit a felony. The brothers have also pleaded guilty to setting fire to an abortion clinic.

Under the agreement reached with prosecutors, Benjamin Williams faces 30 years in prison. James Williams is facing a 20 to 21 ˝-year sentence. The sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 30.

The Williams brothers still face state murder charges in the slayings of a gay couple on July 21, 1999, for which they could get the death penalty if convicted.

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Related Press Release
Press Release: ADL Horrified by Arson Attacks on Three Synagogues (6/18/99)
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