AUSTIN – A federal complaint was unsealed charging Franklin Barrett Sechriest, 18, of San Marcos, with arson in connection with the fire intentionally set at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Austin on October 31, 2021. Sechriest had an initial appearance in federal court today in Austin on the complaint.
According to court documents, on October 31, 2021, Sechriest allegedly set the fire at the synagogue, which caused several thousand dollars in damage. Earlier, on October 28, 2021, Sechriest’s vehicle was identified on security footage at the synagogue.
“Arson at a sacred place of worship shakes the very foundations of our society,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff. “This Office strongly condemns the intentional act of violence alleged in the complaint and will vigorously prosecute this type of conduct to the fullest extent possible. I commend the Austin Fire Department, the FBI and our other law enforcement partners for their outstanding investigative work.”
“I would like to thank the Austin Fire Department for their partnership with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Austin, Texas,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs. “Our dedicated partnership, in this investigation and many others, serves as an innovative and effective model to ensure the protection of our communities and critical infrastructure throughout the United States.”
If convicted of the charge alleged in the complaint, Sechriest faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Sechriest is scheduled for a preliminary examination and detention hearing on November 17 at 10:30 a.m. He remains in federal custody since his arrest on November 12, 2021.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Devlin is prosecuting the case. The FBI and Austin Fire Department are investigating the case.
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Western District of Texas