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Arsonist receives 15 years for blaze set at Somali restaurant

FARGO -- A man who set fire to a Somali restaurant in Grand Forks will spend 15 years in prison. Matthew Gust, 26, of East Grand Forks, Minn., broke the front window of the Juba Cafe and through a Molotov cocktail into the building Dec. 8, 2015. ...

FARGO - A man who set fire to a Somali restaurant in Grand Forks will spend 15 years in prison.

Matthew Gust, 26, of East Grand Forks, Minn., broke the front window of the Juba Cafe and through a Molotov cocktail into the building Dec. 8, 2015.

A federal judge imposed a 15-year sentence during a hearing Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2016, for Gust, who previously pleaded guilty to arson and a hate-crime charge.

According to federal prosecutors, Gust purchased gasoline, filled a 40-ounce beer bottle and through the Molotov cocktail into the restaurant. The Molotov cocktail exploded on impact, causing an explosion and fire inside Juba Cafe, which sustained more than $250,000 in damages.

"This sentence sends a clear message to those who attempt to divide our community by sowing violence and fear," said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, in a news release. He assisted federal prosecutors in North Dakota.

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Initially, Gust faced a felony charge in Grand Forks District Court, but the case later was moved to federal court, where he was charged with malicious use of explosive materials.

Prosecutors swapped out a second charge, settling on interference with a federally protected activity. The hate crime law is designed to protect employees and customers based on their nationality.

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