MIAMI (CBSMiami) – When Gerald Wallace was charged in federal court a few weeks ago, he faced a charge of making a threat against the Islamic Center of Greater Miami and its members – a charge punishable by up to five years in prison.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors announced much more serious charges against Wallace, accusing him of committing a hate crime. If convicted, Wallace faces up to 25 years in prison.
Wallace is accused of leaving a profane, hate filled voicemail at the Islamic Center back in February. In the message, the feds say Wallace, a security guard, lashed out at Islam, the prophet Mohammed, the Koran and threatened to come to the mosque and shoot its members.
“We were very disturbed by the message he left and our congregation was very scared,” said Imam Dr. Abdul Hamid Samra.
Samra hopes Wallace’s arrest and the hate crime charge with a potentially significant prison term is a deterrent to others with hate in their hearts.
“This type of people need to kept away from any place where they can pose a threat,” said Samra.
Court records show that Wallace told the FBI that a news report about terrorism and Muslims angered him one night in February and that caused him to make the recorded threats.
Samra says the members of the mosque are focused right now on the holy month of Ramadan but that they are always aware of their security. That’s the reason that a marked Miami Gardens police car sat in the mosque’s parking lot Thursday evening.
Samra believes the community needs to be reminded of the true intentions of Islam.
“We try to build bridges,” he said. “We are peaceful people. We want to live in peace and we love safety and security not only for ourselves but for everyone.”
Wallace remains jailed. His case is due back in court next week.