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VOL. 42 | NO. 18 | Friday, May 4, 2018

Man pleads guilty to vandalizing Murfreesboro Islamic Center

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NASHVILLE (AP) — A man pleaded guilty Wednesday to vandalizing a Tennessee Islamic Center last July with profane references to Allah in spray-paint and strips of bacon, federal prosecutors said.

Charles Dwight Stout III, 20, was initially charged with civil rights violations and obstruction of justice.

Stout now faces a year of supervision and must pay for the damage after pleading guilty to conspiracy and to causing damage to religious property because of its religious character, U.S. Attorney Donald Cochran said.

A judge will determine how much Stout will have to pay at a sentencing hearing in August.

Stout and a co-defendant, Thomas Gibbs, apologized to the congregation in Murfreesboro during a service focused on forgiveness in March. Stout said he was "very, very sorry" and that he could "imagine the disappointment and the hurt and the fear I caused." He said he wouldn't want anyone to do that to his church.

Gibbs called his actions "dumb, foolish and immature."

After the service, numerous men approached the men with open arms and smiles. A spokesman for the center said Islam teaches forgiveness, and it's better to forgive and correct than condemn and punish.

Gibbs' case is still going through the system. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has faced opposition for years in the suburb of Nashville. The center has endured public protests, vandalism, arson of a construction vehicle and a bomb threat since announcing its expansion.

Opponents claimed religious freedoms shouldn't apply to a mosque they feared would increase the risk of terrorism. The U.S. Department of Justice ultimately intervened, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the opponents' claims.

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