The diaries of a Texas student who set fire to a synagogue two years ago reveal that he had become “consumed” by virulent racist and anti-Semitic beliefs that he had developed years earlier and joined the state’s version of the National Guard. because he thought this would give him “access to like-minded people who shared his hatred.”
A Nov. 20 sentencing memo filed by federal prosecutors reveals a particularly disturbing series of diary entries by Franklin Barrett Sechriest, who wrote about joining a neo-Völkian hate group that preaches ethnic Germanic superiority, vandalizes Masonic lodges and other disturbing activities. Perhaps the least troubling passage is one in which the then-18-year-old decries the “insane prices” of foreskin replacement gear, and immediately turns to playing RimWorld, a sci-fi space colony simulation.
The memo, which runs to 107 pages and suggests a prison sentence of as much as 10 years, says Sechrist’s parents rewarded his abhorrent behavior with access to guns and family trips to the shooting range.
Sechrest was arrested on November 12, 2021 for a Halloween night arson after Austin Fire Department investigators identified the Texas freshman from security footage of his license plate at Congregation Beth Israel. The fire caused more than $150,000 in damage, destroying the temple’s historic doors, shattering its stained glass windows and destroying the shrine.
In one of Sechries’ diary entries released at the time, he wrote: “I set fire to a synagogue.” In another news article now showing for the first time, Sechrest blamed Jews for COVID-19, talked about listening to white power music and cyberstalking vulnerable people online. He expressed support for Nazism, denigrated the Talmud and reminded himself to “be racist” in various ways to “[c]actually consider terrorism’ and ‘test Molotov cocktails’.
Sechrest complained in his diaries about having to listen to “a third-hand speech about the Holocaust and ‘hate,'” and having “a long conversation with his mother about the Jews controlling the media.” He made contemporaneous notes commemorating such activities as: “Be so racist to make Mom feel uncomfortable,” “Feel totally bad and argue with Mom for four hours about complacency in the era of the New Civil War,” and “Burn a book with the name ‘How can I be an anti-racist’, because I am a racist and don’t want my mother to get ideas about curbing my radicalization process.”
The newspapers show that Sechries’ parents were well aware of their son’s anti-Semitism and hatred of non-whites. Yet they surrendered to him and his violent fantasies, according to the prosecutor’s sentencing memo.
“To retrieve [sic] Mom, give her a shout, apologize and send her to the Academy [Sports + Outdoors] to buy the gun they wouldn’t sell me,” wrote Sechrest, whose father, an orthopedic surgeon, is a senior Veterans Affairs official.
In another journal entry, Sehriest described building homemade .22-caliber zip guns from a pipe he bought at Home Depot, then making modifications “to solve reloading problems.” All the while, his parents never intervened, according to the sentencing memo.
“Dad doesn’t agree, but he does laundry,” Sechriest wrote.
The sentencing memo includes diary entries about Sechrest making his own flamethrower (“Dad panicked”), shooting crossbows with his father and going with his mother to buy a derringer and a revolver with his mother “because mother was too weak is to put the slide on a semi-automatic.”
“Test weapons remotely,” Sechrest wrote in a subsequent post. “Take the derringer, because I can hide it. Doing homework. Remove the trigger guard from the derringer.”
Psychiatrists who evaluated Sechrest in 2016 warned his parents that he “should not have access to firearms,” according to a detention memo filed with the court last year.
Daniel Wannamaker, Sechries’ attorney, told The Daily Beast in April that he believed Vernon and Nicole Sechries were raising their child responsibly.
“I don’t believe the parents are to blame,” he said. “They had him examined at Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic and Meninger in Houston. I believe they tried.”
Sechrest has used mental health problems – he is on the autism spectrum, but functions extremely well, according to his lawyer – to manipulate others, the prosecutor alleges.
But in an earlier interview, Wannamaker told The Daily Beast that his client had been radicalized online by “far-right ultra-nationalists who prey on people like my client,” and that Sehriest had been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome and autism, among other conditions. spectrum disorder, mood disorder, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, anxiety disorder and ‘possible’ mast cell activation syndrome, a condition that causes severe allergic reactions.
The sentencing memo states that Sechrest has not shown any remorse for what he did. Before pleading guilty in April to a hate crime — damage to religious property and arson, Sechrest wrote what prosecutors described as “a message against Congregation Beth Israel and the Anti-Defamation League.”
“In his note he exclaimed that ‘[Congregation Beth Israel] and the ADL can rot in hell for buying off my first lawyer[,]”continues its embrace of conspiratorial and hateful thoughts,” the memo said. He further claimed that the FBI was ‘instigated’ by [the] ADL, would show him no mercy.”
Six weeks before the synagogue arson, Sehriest committed “an armed robbery of four individuals, specifically three black victims and one Hispanic victim” on the campus of his own school, the sentencing memo said.
“Defendant hid his face, approached the victims, displayed a firearm and ordered them to show their wallets and other valuables,” it explains, noting that Sechrest was never arrested or charged because the crime remained unsolved until police obtained his diaries had checked.
“In one of his diaries, in diary entries dated September 10 and 12, 2021, the suspect admitted to the robbery in racist terms,” using a variation of the N-word to describe the robbery.
Sechrest was obsessed with crime and wrote about shooting at 5G cell towers, slashing people’s tires and using stolen credit cards. He had enough money to amass a collection of swords, acquire an AR-15 and at least one Taser, and, as he wrote in an April 2019 diary entry, to “buy foreskin repair gear at insane prices before putting it on a measuring tape jacked. .”
In their sentencing memo, prosecutors emphasize that even though Sechriest was only 18 when he committed his crimes, his bigoted views “seemed to be well developed by the time he was in high school.”
The memo states that Sechriest “claimed membership in white supremacist organizations, including the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA), which preaches racist doctrines based on a belief in ethnic Germanic superiority.” He also “stated that he intended to purchase a ring bearing Thor’s Hammer, a symbol often appropriated by neo-Nazi groups,” prosecutors wrote.
“These vile beliefs consumed him for a long period of time, inspiring him to turn them to writing and to devise ways to violently act on his beliefs,” the memo said.
Before August 2021, Sechrest had no ties to the state of Texas, when his parents agreed to move there with him from Minneapolis, where his father worked, so he could attend Texas State University and join the Texas State Guard, the memo said. Secreest lived with his mother; his father, now chief of staff at the Loma Linda, California, VA Medical Center, has since divided his time between California and the Austin area.
“Defendant became fascinated with the Texas State Guard and believed it would give him access to like-minded people who shared his hatred,” the memo continues. “Defendant believed that joining the Texas State Guard would also give him the opportunity to train with firearms and other weapons.”
When Sechrest was caught, his car was “filled with materials for building Molotov cocktails,” the memo said. “Defendant was already dangerous, and he was in the process of making himself a greater danger to the community by thoroughly arming himself and learning how to use his amassed arsenal.”
Prosecutors say only a long sentence will deter others from acting on similar beliefs and that a 120-month stint in prison is necessary to “protect the public from” Sechriest.
“At the time of his arrest, the suspect was clearly preparing to commit additional violent crimes based on his hatred,” the memo said. “Even while in custody, the defendant has expressed persistent hatred toward persons of the Jewish faith, as evidenced by his anger toward the Anti-Defamation League. The longer the suspect remains in custody, and under the watchful eye of the Court and probation after his release, the better for the protection of society.”
Wannamaker, who did not respond to a request for comment Sunday, has not yet submitted his own argument for what the defense believes is an appropriate prison sentence for Sechrest. The verdict is scheduled for Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.