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Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Missouri Man Sentenced for Setting Fire to Islamic Center

A Missouri man was sentenced today for the arson of the Cape Girardeau Islamic Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Nicholas John Proffitt, 44, was sentenced to 191 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $551,217.91 in restitution. He previously pleaded guilty on Dec. 12, 2022, to using fire to damage religious property and to using fire in the commission of a federal felony. 

According to court documents and statements made during the plea and sentencing hearings, Proffitt intentionally set fire to the Cape Girardeau Islamic Center on April 24, 2020, which was the first morning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, because of the building’s religious character. The fire resulted in significant damage to the Islamic Center.

“This defendant has now been held accountable for setting fire to an Islamic center that served as a meeting place for Muslim community members in Cape Girardeau, Missouri,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Attacks on mosques in our country are attacks on people of faith that undermine the fundamental right to practice one’s religion free from fear or violence. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce federal laws that protect all houses of worship, regardless of denomination.”

“This is the third time Nicholas Proffitt has attacked Islamic institutions, in Missouri and elsewhere,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming for the Eastern District of Missouri. “He has now been sentenced to a significant prison term that will protect the community from further persecution for a long time.”

“The right to pray as you wish is at the core of our nation’s ideals,” said ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. “When someone attacks a house of worship, they attack that American right, and they need to be held accountable. I commend the work of the ATF and all our federal partners in bringing this defendant to justice.”

“Nicholas Proffitt destroyed a religious building, but he couldn’t take away the constitutional right to religious freedom,” said Special Agent in Charge Jay Greenberg of the FBI St. Louis Field Office. “The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the U.S. Constitution.”

The FBI St. Louis Field Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Cape Girardeau Police Department, the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Perryville Police Department investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Hahn for the Eastern District of Missouri prosecuted the case with assistance from Trial Attorney Daniel Grunert of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.

For more information and resources on the department’s efforts to combat hate crimes, visit


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