Homeless man who burned down historic Minnesota synagogue gets ‘intense’ sentence


(JTA) — The homeless man who started the fire that destroyed a historic synagogue in Minnesota was sentenced to three months in jail and 192 hours of community service.

The sentence handed out on Friday in Duluth, Minnesota, to Matthew Amiot, 36, also includes four years of probation, chemical dependency treatment and $66,000 in restitution, which is the amount not covered by the insurance of the Adas Israel Synagogue in Duluth.

St. Louis County District Judge Shaun Floerke told Amiot that the probation “will be the most intense monitoring experience of your life,” TwinCities.com reported.

Amiot admitted to starting the Sept. 9 fire. He pleaded guilty to two counts: a felony for starting a negligent fire resulting in more than $2,500 in damage, and a gross misdemeanor for starting a negligent fire resulting in great bodily harm.

At the time of the blaze, Amiot was sheltering in an alcove between the synagogue building and its sukkah.

Police have said that they saw no evidence that the arson was a bias or hate crime. Amiot told police that he tried to spit on the blaze to put it out but walked away when he was unsuccessful.

The nearly 120-year-old synagogue was deemed a total loss, with damage to property estimated to be at least $117,000 for the structure and at least $250,000 for religious items.

Synagogue lay leader Phil Sher in a victim impact statement put the damages as more than $1 million, noting that some of the religious artifacts lost were more than 500 years old and that some handmade religious heirlooms were destroyed.

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