A Texas man pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime charge on Wednesday, admitting that he set fire to playground equipment at the Dar El-Eman Islamic Center in Arlington in July 2010.
Henry Clay Glaspell, 34, pleaded guilty in federal court in Fort Worth to violating federal hate crimes laws by damaging religious property, the Justice Department announced in a statement.
Glaspell, DOJ said, “admitted that he set fire to playground equipment at the mosque as part of a series of ethnically-motivated acts directed at individuals of Arab or Middle Eastern descent associated with the mosque.
“Glaspell further admitted that he stole and damaged mosque property, threw used cat litter at the front door of the mosque, and shouted racial or ethnic slurs at individuals of Arab or Middle Eastern descent at the mosque on multiple occasions,” DOJ said in a statement.
A photo released by the Arlington Police Department shows the damage the playground equipment sustained. Jamal Qaddura, a spokesman for the Tarrant County Muslim community, told the Star Telegram that parents are still reluctant to take their children to the playground and that cameras caught Glaspell painting what the newspaper dubbed “sexually suggestive pictures that were labeled ‘Uncle Sam’ and ‘Allah’.”
The guilty plea came just a day after the charge was announced. It marked the 50th prosecution of post-Sept. 11th backlash against Arab and Muslim Americans, DOJ said.
When he’s sentenced in July, Glaspell will face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for using fire to damage religious property.
During an interview with federal and local law enforcement officials in August, Glaspell admitted that he committed the acts because he hates people of Middle Eastern descent, but clarified that his animus at the individuals at the Mosque was not because they were Muslim, according to a court document. He also admitted to frequently using the term “towel head” to describe individuals at the Mosque.
“Arab-Americans are part of the American family, and the defendant today admitted that he targeted Arabs at a Mosque where people worship peacefully and children play,” Assistant Attorney General for the Civil RIghts Division Thomas Perez said in a statement. “Hate-fueled incidents of this kind will not be tolerated in our country.”