Tuesday, 12 December 2017

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Bacon used in hate crime: Titusville man gets 15 years in mosque vandalism

By Tess Sheets and J.D. Gallop,, For Florida Today , On 07 December 2017, Read Original

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A Titusville man who broke into a Titusville mosque and left a slab of raw bacon now faces 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges, the state attorney's office said. 

Michael Wolfe, 37, will serve 15 years in state prison, followed by 15 years probation for the January 2016 crime at the Islamic Society of Central Florida Masjid Al-Munin Mosque in Titusville. Prosecutors said the agreement was reached after discussions with the Islamic Society of Central Florida and Titusville police. 

“He entered a plea deal and plead guilty to vandalizing the mosque itself with hate crime enhancement, making it a felony,” said a spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office Todd Brown. “He waived his right to a pre-sentencing investigation.”

Details of a motive were not released. 

Wolfe pled guilty to criminal mischief to a place of worship with a hate crime enhancement Tuesday. The vandalism came as a growing number of similar mosque vandalisms were taking place across the nation. Muslim advocacy groups had grown increasingly concerned about a wave of what they describe as 'anti-Islamic- sentiment when the Titusville attack took place. 

Imam Muhammad Musri, who oversees a network of mosques in Central Florida. lauded the state attorney's office's effort to send a message to those who would target Muslims or houses of worship. 

"The intent is to really deter similar kinds of hate crime. After what we've seen in Texas at the church, this is needed," Musri said, pointing out that authorities stopped a plot this week targeting a Jacksonville mosque. "Our schools, our churches, our theaters, it's a red line. It's heartbreaking. The hate must stop," he said. 

Police said Wolfe broke into the mosque, ripping down lights, smashing windows and leaving behind the pork product. Pork — including bacon and ham — is prohibited in Islam, a faith followed by 1.6 billion people worldwide. 

Wolfe also offered to the court the fact that he was a habitual offender, Brown said.

According to Brevard County records, Wolfe has had multiple run-ins with the law dating back to 1998, including convictions in burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and grand theft in 2004— for which he was sentenced to two years, seven months and two days in prison— and burglary of a conveyance in 2011, for which he was sentenced to 64 days in the county jail. Wolfe was also fined and sentenced to probation after a 2001 burglary and grand theft arrest when he was just 20 years old, records show. 

Wolfe is prohibited from returning to the mosque — a condition of his probation. Other details of the probation were not immediately available.

On top of criminal mischief, Wolfe was slapped with an armed burglary charge during his arrest, but that charge was dropped in court.

“The agreement was to drop the armed burglary in exchange for his plea,” Brown said.

Wolfe has the option of filing an appeal within 30 days of his conviction.