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Felony charges filed against war vet accused of storming mosque

In Colorado, the crime of criminal mischief is defined as knowingly damaging the property of another or property owned jointly with another. It can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the amount of damages inflicted, with damages over $1,000 generally being charged as a felony. The issue is relevant to a recent attack against a Fort Collins mosque in which a 35-year-old man is accused of kicking in the door, breaking windows and throwing rocks into the prayer area.

The accused also allegedly left a bible in the mosque as his apparent "calling card." The incident was captured on video surveillance cameras, but how the police came to arrest and charge the accused as being the hooded figure in the film is unclear. Police arrested him on charges of malicious mischief, trespass and bias-motivated crime.

The incident brought an outpouring of non-Muslims from the community to support the Muslim members of the mosque. Over $20,000 was raised to pay for repairs. The incident drew national attention from religious and civil rights groups.

Since Jan. 1, there have been 33 incidents nationwide targeting mosques for threats, vandalism or arson. If there is probable cause to hold the accused under Colorado law, defense counsel will of course make a thorough investigation of the background and prior history of the defendant. If he is in fact the perpetrator, counsel will likely recommend a plea bargain.  

In negotiating the agreement pursuant to Colorado law, counsel will rely heavily on any mitigating circumstances that may exist to lessen the gravity of the felony charges.  For example, the fact that the accused served as a medic in Korea and Iraq may count for mitigation in meting out a sentence. It may be that he is battling some form of post-traumatic stress disorder that could at least partly explain his anti-social behavior.

Source: CNN, "Suspect arrested, accused of throwing Bible into Colorado mosque", Azadeh Ansari and Madison Park, March 28, 2017

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