William Celli, a 55-year-old man from California, will spend 90 days in jail after being caught in possession of an explosive device and threatening to kill Muslims. Celli took a plea deal that places him on probation for a further three years and bans him from operating an active Facebook profile.
Celli was arrested on Dec. 20, 2015, after yelling “I’m going to kill you all” outside the Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County in Richmond, California. Police later found and detonated an explosive device at Celli’s residence after receiving tips that he was constructing homemade explosives.
Celli had taken to social media in the past to express his admiration of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump. “Donald trumps on again I’m happy leaders okay but this guys a great point man I’ll follow this MAN to the end of the world,” Celli wrote on Facebook in October.
Despite political rhetoric demonizing Muslims worldwide, radical rightwing activists are a greater threat to Americans than jihadists, according to recent studies.
Some people took to social media to decry the sentence as too lenient. Nonetheless, American-Muslim groups welcomed the development.
“We welcome the jail time handed out in this case and are appreciative of the cooperation and support from law enforcement and the district attorney’s office shown to the local Muslim community,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo said in a statement. “At a time when attacks on mosques and Muslim individuals are at an all-time high, this will send a message that such actions will have consequences.”
Celli’s sentence is lenient, though, in comparison with that of the Duka brothers. Three brothers from this family of Albanian Muslim immigrants are currently serving life sentences (two of the brothers were sentenced to life sentences plus 30 years) for allegedly planning an attack on Fort Dix. The brothers were sentenced despite being caught on tape multiple times denying any intent to undertake such an attack. They were arrested while illegally buying firearms.
Celli isn’t the first American to get a relatively lenient sentence for threatening Muslims, either. Robert Rankin Doggart, a former candidate for Congress, said he was “plotting the annihilation” of a Muslim community in New York but was let go on a guilty plea.