A Florida man who vandalized a mosque on New Year’s Day pleaded guilty to criminal mischief to a place of worship with a hate crime enhancement on Tuesday and is expected to spend 15 years in prison.
Back in January, Michael Wolfe, 37, forcibly entered a mosque and broke several cameras, lights and windows with a machete before leaving a slab of bacon, which is forbidden by Islam, behind.
At the time, Iman Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, indicated that the mosque will be repaired, but said “the psychological damage will be lasting.”
“You can’t help but feel this is a hateful act. All of the negative media, the politicians who want to ban Muslims, close mosques … messages like that motivate people who have an illness in their heart,” he added. “We’ve been in this community for so many years. This is a great community and this act is not typical of the good people or the city.”
Wolfe will serve 15 years in state prison, followed by 15 years of probation for his crimes. Prosecutors reached the agreement after discussions with the Islamic Society of Central Florida and Titusville police. As part of the plea, Wolfe cannot return to the mosque.
“He entered a plea deal and plead guilty to vandalizing the mosque itself with hate crime enhancement, making it a felony,” said Todd Brown, a spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office. “He waived his right to a pre-sentencing investigation.”
At the time of his arrest, Wolfe had also been charged with armed burglary, but that charge was dropped in court. Brown indicated, “The agreement was to drop the armed burglary in exchange for his plea.”
The congregants at the mosque were pleased to see Wolfe’s crimes being prosecuted as a hate crime and were obviously thankful that no one was present at the time of the incident or was injured.
“We have been hoping for that to happen. It was clearly a hate crime,” Musri said. “Obviously, we were lucky that no one was there that night,” Musri told USA Today. “He had a machete, someone could have been killed.”