By Eli Rosenberg | The Washington Post
Kaderbhai Ali Asgar left India to find a place where he’d be able grow as a chemical engineer, landing in a country he believed was “the land of the free.”
His dreams mostly held true as he and his family made their lives in Tampa, Florida, until November 2016, when they were on the verge of moving to Davis Islands, an upscale island neighborhood near the city’s downtown.
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Asgar and his wife had entered into a contract for a house in the area, and had scheduled a final walk-through of the property with the two sellers, Asgar’s wife’s parents, two realtors, movers and a cleaning person. Asgar, who is Muslim, was wearing a topi, a woven cap with religious meaning, and his wife and mother-in-law wore headscarves.
But after they arrived at the house, a neighbor, who law enforcement officials later identified as David Howard, walked toward the home, yelling at the seller and Asgar’s family.
“This sale will not take place!” Howard yelled, according to court documents filed by federal prosecutors. “I will break all of your f—ing windows and I will burn your f—ing house down!”
He then said, “You are not welcome here!” and later asked a mover if he was “moving the dotheads in” and made insulting remarks about Muslims to neighbors, court documents said. The family canceled the purchase of the home as they no longer felt safe.
“This was such a shocking incident in our life that none of us can contemplate how we’ve gone through it,” Asgar told The Post. “It’s so much emotional, mental, psychological distress.”
The case has come to some closure for Asgar and his family; Howard was sentenced to eight months in prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty to a criminal violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, civil rights laws dating to the 1960s that outlaws, among other things, threatening or interfering with another person’s housing rights because of their race or religion.
Howard has also been ordered to pay $30,000 of restitution to Asgar, for the deposit that Asgar and his family lost when they canceled the closing on the home.
Asgar said that the sentencing brought some measure of relief to him and his family.
“We really feel that justice has been served and probably this will be a deterrent to people who think that they can take the law into their hand,” Asgar said.
Asgar declined to provide details of the family’s current living situation, but said that they are still looking for a new home.
Prosecutors wrote in documents filed in the case that Asgar and his family had been deeply shaken by the incident. Asgar “could not sleep for weeks,” they wrote, and had trouble finding the words to explain what had happened to his two children because he did not want to give them the feeling of “powerless discrimination,” that he felt, …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Politics