Madness: Man Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison for Burning an LGBTQ Flag


An incredible story out of Iowa, where an Ames man was sentenced to 16 years in prison for burning an LGBTQ rainbow flag.

Adolfo Martinez stole a gay pride flag flying outside a church and torched it in front of a men’s strip club. NBCNews reports he was sentenced “to 15 years for the hate crime of arson and given a year for reckless use of explosives or fire and 30 days for harassment.” His sentence was enhanced by the fact that he was a “habitual offender.”


So why 16 years? A local pastor explains.


Ames Church of Christ Minister Eileen Gebbie said the sentencing was both heartbreaking and justified.

“Nobody got shot (and) nobody was sexually assaulted,” Gebbie said. “It was a banner. How much does that hurt? But I had to reflect on the fear it created in our sanctuary. People became afraid to go to church. We had to continue to talk about how to prepare for an active shooter and we learned from the trial Mr. Martinez had been watching our church for some time.”

So “fear”= 15 years? I always thought Lady Justice was supposed to be blind, and that “justice” was a concept that was defined by reason, balance, and fairness. But this is madness. This is vengeful.

The prosecutor believes the sentence was fair.

“I believe him to be very dangerous,” Story County Attorney Jessica Reynolds said. “That’s why my office recommended the maximum sentence.”

Reynolds said the judge agreed to the 17-year sentence because Martinez has a long history of harassment and is a habitual offender and never showed any remorse.

“The defendant stated that there was nothing the judge could to stop him from continuing this behavior and that he would continue to do this no matter what,” she said.

He’s not threatening people. He’s threatening flags. The fact that he’s a habitual offender matters some, but this isn’t  Minority Report and we don’t have a “pre-crime bureau.” We can’t predict future crimes he will commit and then sentence him for something he hasn’t done yet.


It is apparently not a “hate crime” to burn an American flag. It’s hardly a “crime” at all. In fact, it’s seen by many as an act of courage — “speaking truth to power” and all that. But we can only punish certain kinds of “hate” — the “right kinds” of hate that are smiled upon by the arbiters of social justice. Interestingly, the number of “hate crimes” seems to be growing all the time and the impulse to punish it is also expanding.

It makes a mockery of the concept of “justice” and “fairness.”




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