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Man pleads guilty to threat to burn Boston's largest mosque

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to threatening to burn down a Boston mosque in an alcohol-fueled social media post following the 2015 attacks in Paris by Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers.

Patrick Keogan of Wilmington was arrested in July and charged with posting an image on the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center's Facebook page showing a mosque in flames with the caption "burn your local mosque."

No arson occurred, and no one was injured.

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The post came within days of the November 2015 attacks in Paris in which 130 people were killed.

Keogan, a 44-year-old electrician, appeared in a prison jumpsuit at Boston federal court where he pleaded guilty to charges including the threat, owning firearms despite a prior felony conviction, and child pornography.

He answered U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock's questions softly and simply, saying he understood the proceedings and had not been compelled to change his plea.

Keogan claimed to have been inebriated at the time, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Garland told the court.

"He may well have been drunk but he nevertheless held a criminal intent," Garland said.

Court papers listed some 49 rifles, shotguns and pistols seized at Keogan's home.

Prosecutors recommended that Keogan be sentenced to up to 57 months, a little less than five years, in prison. That would be less than the 20 years he could have faced for the most serious charge, child pornography.

Woodlock said he would sentence Keogan on May 15.

The United States and Europe have seen a series of attacks by people claiming affiliation to Islamic State, including a June 2016 massacre at an Orlando, Florida, gay nightclub in which 49 people were killed.

Those killings have triggered threats and burnings at U.S. mosques. A Florida man last week was sentenced to 30 years in prison for setting fire to a mosque in Orlando.

The executive director of the Boston mosque thanked prosecutors for taking on the case.

"In these times in particular, all of us must work together to fight against hate in our communities," Yusufi Vali said in an email. "We pray this point marks a change in our brother - Mr. Keogan's life."

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney)