TAMPA — It was an eruption of ugliness that shocked the affluent community of Davis Islands.
In late 2016, as a family of Indian descent viewed a $658,000 home they were about to buy, a neighbor accosted them, threatening to break windows and to set the home on fire. "You are not welcome here," he shouted, according to court records.
That man, David H. Howard, now faces up to 10 years in federal prison for his actions, which he acknowledged in a plea agreement filed Thursday in U.S. District Court. He has agreed to plead guilty to interference with housing rights, also punishable by a fine of up to $250,000.
Kaderbhai and Sehera Ali Asgar and the wife’s elderly parents arrived the morning of Nov. 3, 2016, for a final look at the property at 632 Luzon Ave. The husband wore a topi, a woven cap worn by Muslim men, and his wife and mother-in-law wore head scarves and traditional Indian attire.
That’s when they encountered Howard, who initially aimed his anger at seller Herb Donica, according the plea agreement.
"You lied to me, you lied to me, you told me those people would not be moving into the house," he said.
He declared, "This sale will not take place. I will break all of your f------ windows and I will burn your f------ house down."
And, according to the agreement he signed, he told the Asgars they were not welcome.
In a 2017 lawsuit, still pending, the prospective buyers demanded a return of their deposit of $30,000 from the home’s owners, plus damages from two neighbors, including Howard, for "infliction of emotional distress."
While providing sworn testimony for that case on Sept. 25, Howard said that his temper sometimes flared, which he attributed to a testosterone supplement he was taking for weight gain, according to Hillsborough court records.
"I was upset," he testified. "I was very upset, okay. This drug that I’m taking to increase weight has a negative effect, and you have to have heard of people that have had road rages, guys in high school, college that are taking steroids."
He testified that before the outburst, neighbor had come running to his house to tell him, "Oh, my God, the Muslims are moving in, the Muslims are moving in."
The federal charge was filed Tuesday. Howard is scheduled to appear in court to enter a guilty plea on Feb. 27.
Whatever the outcome, he said in his civil testimony that his life has been ruined by the negative attention.
He blamed Donica for the story getting out, though it was made public by a service that monitors lawsuits.
"It was nobody’s business," he testified.
Davis Islands neighbors see him walking and cross to the other side of the street, he said. Someone sent him feces wrapped in tissue paper. Hate mail, too. They threw garbage in his yard.
"He’s ruined my life. I go to the gym, people are like why the hell did you do that. He has ruined my life. He had a parade of over a hundred people down Luzon. They called it a friendship parade."