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Thursday, 24 February 2011

Arlington man pleads guilty to federal hate crime at mosque (USA)

An Arlington man pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to a hate crime at an Arlington mosque this past summer when he set fire to playground equipment at the mosque.

Henry Glaspell, 34, faces a maximum 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for July 11.

According to court documents, attorneys in the case are recommending a 14-month sentence, but the presiding judge is not bound by that recommendation.

During the plea hearing, Glaspell admitted that he set fire to playground equipment at the mosque in July as part of a series of ethnically motivated acts directed at individuals of Arab or Middle Eastern descent associated with the mosque, a U.S. Justice Department news release said.

Glaspell also admitted that he stole and damaged mosque property, threw used cat litter at the front door of the mosque, and shouted racial or ethnic slurs at individuals of Arab or Middle Eastern descent at the mosque on multiple occasions, according to the release.

This is the 50th prosecution of post-Sept. 11, 2001, backlash against Arab and Muslim Americans, the release said.

Jamal Qaddura, spokesman for the Tarrant County Islamic community, said surveillance cameras at the Dar El-Eman Islamic Center, 5511 Mansfield Road, caught Glaspell spray-painting graffiti and setting fire to playground equipment valued at more than $11,800.

Qaddura said he will ask people from the mosque to help him craft a victims' impact statement to deliver to the court prior to sentencing.

"I am praying for him and wish him all the best," Qaddura said. "I and the community have asked God to forgive him, but he has to pay his debt to society."