Alleged arsonist won’t get hate crime charge in synagogue fire

ATTORNEY

The Broward State Attorney’s Office has decided to charge Scott Hannaford with arson and not a hate crime for a fire that destroyed a synagogue.

The Broward State Attorney’s Office has decided to charge Scott Hannaford with arson and not a hate crime for a fire that destroyed a synagogue.

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A blaze “intentionally” started by a mentally ill man that destroyed a Fort Lauderdale synagogue and restaurant last month was not deemed a hate crime by Broward prosecutors. However, arson charges were officially filed against him Wednesday.

On March 16, Scott Hannaford set fire to Rabbi Chaim Slavaticki’s car near the Las Olas Chabad Jewish Center, the Broward State Attorney’s Office said. It quickly spread to the synagogue and the Friendship Grill inside.

Hannaford, 50, tried to set fire to the Kavasutra Kava Bar next door ten minutes earlier, the state attorney’s office said.

Broward prosecutors say that attempted arson to a nonreligious location was a key factor in determining why there was no hate crime enhancement, which would have increased the already lengthy prison time Hannaford is possibly facing.

Hannaford was charged with first-degree and second-degree arson, third-degree felony criminal mischief involving a synagogue or place of worship and third-degree felony possession of cocaine.

“Our commitment to combating hate crimes is steadfast and vigorously pursuing these heinous and serious crimes is a top priority for me and the Broward State Attorney’s Office,” said Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor in a statement. “When there is evidence to support a hate crime enhancement, we will file it.”

If he is convicted and sentenced to the maximum penalty for the four charges, Hannaford would face 65 years in state prison.

As of Wednesday, he was still being held at the Broward Jail on a $102,000 bond.

“During my meeting with the rabbi this week, I assured him, his congregation, and our entire Broward community that we will continue to stand together against hate,” Pryor said.

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Miami Herald Cops and Breaking News Reporter Devoun Cetoute covers a plethora of Florida topics, from breaking news to crime patterns. He was on the breaking news team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2022. He’s a graduate of the University of Florida, born and raised in Miami-Dade. Theme parks, movies and cars are on his mind in and out of the office.

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