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Book burning

Paul Dorr, a northwest Iowa religious activist, released a Facebook Live video Oct. 19 in which he burned four books from the Orange City Public Library. A still from that video is shown. A judge on Tuesday found him guilty of fifth-degree criminal mischief and fined him $65.

ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- Religious activist Paul Dorr was found guilty Tuesday of burning LGBTQ-themed books he had checked out from a public library.

Magistrate Lisa Mazurek ruled Dorr guilty of fifth-degree criminal mischief and fined him $65 plus $82.75 in surcharges and court costs. The charge, a simple misdemeanor, also carried a potential jail sentence of up to 30 days. In her written sentencing order, Mazurek gave no reason for choosing not to sentence Dorr to jail.

Dorr, who represented himself in the case, had waived his right to a jury trial and chose to have Mazurek preside over the trial which began and ended Tuesday morning in Sioux County District Court.

In an emailed statement, Dorr said he knew Tuesday's outcome was a foregone conclusion. He chose to remain silent at trial, he said, because of limitations placed on his defense by the court.

"My intent was never criminal," Dorr said in the statement. "My motive was to honor the Triune God in whom my faith resides and to protect the children of Orange City from being seduced into a life of sin and misery. I did it in such a way so as to exercise my freedom of speech and the freedom of my biblical faith."

On Oct. 19, Dorr, 63, posted a half-hour long Facebook Live video that showed him tossing four books he had checked out from the Orange City Public Library two weeks earlier into a burning barrel. Dorr, director of Ocheyedan-based group Rescue the Perishing, said he was protesting a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning celebration in Orange City, the introduction of sexual education into the public schools and some local churches' reluctance to denounce homosexuality.

"Orange City Library, you won't be peddling this one anymore," Dorr said in the video as he threw one of the books into the fire. "You should all be ashamed of yourselves and repent."

Dorr had unsuccessfully sought a dismissal of his case, arguing that he had been singled out for prosecution while others hadn't been prosecuted for similar conduct. Dorr also said Sioux County Attorney Thomas Kunstle was prosecuting him only because of the message Dorr was trying to send.

Mazurek denied Dorr's motion, saying he was being prosecuted because he had destroyed library property.

After the burning, the library, which had earlier faced community opposition for putting LGBTQ books on its shelves, received hundreds of dollars in cash donations and books from individuals and groups across the country. Library officials at the time declined to say whether the library has replaced the books.

Acting library director Parveen Karim on Tuesday declined to comment on the verdict.

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