Williams Brothers Sentenced for Sacramento Synagogue Arsons

  • November 30, 2001

Two white supremacist brothers received hefty prison sentences for setting fire to three synagogues in Sacramento, California, and a building housing an abortion clinic.

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. sentenced Benjamin Matthew Williams to 30 years in prison for planning and organizing the June 1999 arson attacks. James Tyler Williams was sentenced to 21 and ¼ years in prison for his role in the attacks. In addition, the brothers were ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution to the three synagogues and the abortion clinic they targeted.

"We commend the strong sentences imposed on the Williams brothers, whose synagogue firebombings impacted our entire community," said Jonathan Bernstein, ADL Regional Director for San Francisco. "It is important that society send a strong message to those who would advocate similar acts of hatred. Acts of religious intimidation, such as these synagogue arsons, are especially harmful in the pain and fear they inflict. We are pleased that the prosecution sought stiff penalties to ensure that such a horrific act will not be repeated again in California. We must stand united against acts of hate."

The Williams brothers pleaded guilty to the Sacramento arson attacks in September 2001 in a deal with prosecutors. The Williams brothers still face state murder charges in the slayings of a gay couple on July 21, 1999, for which they could get the death penalty if convicted.

At the sentencing, prosecutors described the brothers as known extremists who followed hate groups such as World Church of the Creator and Aryan Nations. After their arrest, police found literature from those and other hate groups in the brothers’ homes.