Photo via Ada Be/Flickr (CC-BY)
A Missouri man who confessed last year to burning down a mosque, and trying on two occasions to burn down a Planned Parenthood clinic, pleaded guilty in court on Monday. He faces a maximum sentence of 61 years in prison without parole.
Jedediah Stout, 32, was charged in October with two arson attempts at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Joplin, Missouri. Authorities identified Stout by Walmart barcodes on evidence recovered from the scene, including a backpack and several “dog rope toys.” Surveillance footage from the retailer on the date of sale reportedly shows Stout purchasing the items.
A fingerprint positively matched to Stout was also discovered on a plastic bottle recovered by arson investigators outside Planned Parenthood’s building.
The Joplin clinic does not provide abortion services, according to KOMU.
Stout told police he obtaining the gasoline used in the fires from his parent’s lawn mower. When questioned about a number of unsolved arsons in the area, he admitted to starting two fires at the Islamic Society of Joplin in 2012, one of which gutted the building. He advised the investigators that he “did not like Islam as a religion,” court records show.
Stout pleaded guilty on Monday to a four-count indictment in a Western District of Missouri courtroom. He has been charged with one count of damage to the Joplin mosque, two counts of arson at the Planned Parenthood facility, and one count of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, a Clinton-era law which prohibits the use of intimidation and violence as a means to dissuade people from seeking reproductive care.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, emphasized Stout’s ideology was a catalyst for the attacks. Stout “admitted that he attempted to burn the Planned Parenthood because it provides reproductive health services, and that he set fire to the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque because of its religious character,” she said.
The DOJ will continue to “vigorously prosecute” attacks on women’s health clinics, Gupta said, as well those “motivated by religious animus.”
Faizan Syed, an executive director in St. Louis with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), applauded the news during a phone interview Monday afternoon. “I think when it comes to this, I’m from the Muslim community, we’re very happy that the person who did this heinous crime has plead guilty and that the community can really move on from the tragedy,” he said.
A spokesperson at Planned Parenthood was not immediately available for comment.