Originally created 05/06/04

Mosque vandals receive probation



LUBBOCK, Texas - Two of the four teenagers who desecrated a Lubbock mosque in March received probation during a court hearing.

"I'm very satisfied," said Mohamed El-Moctar, the mosque's spiritual leader. "I believe they are too young for punishment. I hope they will benefit from probation."

The boys, ages 14 and 15, will serve intensive-supervision probation and pay a portion of the $12,000 restitution to the Islamic Center of the South Plains, Assistant Criminal District Attorney Matt Powell said.

On March 7, intruders ransacked the center and stole equipment and cash. The vandals wrote pro-American and anti-Muslim slogans on the walls.

Police arrested four boys - two 15, one 14 and one 13 - on burglary charges days later.

The boys sentenced Tuesday are considered the least culpable suspects, Mr. Powell said.

Last month, one 15-year-old was incarcerated with the Texas Youth Commission. He might be held until his 21st birthday.

The case against the final suspect, 13, is pending.

State law prohibits releasing juvenile suspects' names.

The boys and their families previously visited the mosque, said Mr. El-Moctar, who expects the boys to perform part of their court-ordered community service at the center.

"They apologized, and we accepted their apologies," he said. "I will be happy to see them."

Authorities initially considered the case a potential hate crime. But Lubbock police said their investigation determined the crime was not committed because of political, personal or religious bias toward Muslims.

"I'm not saying it wasn't a hateful crime. It was," Assistant Police Chief Thomas Esparza said after the arrests. "It was mean-spirited, and it was hateful. ... But they did not target that center or anyone who attends that center because of religious beliefs."