HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The congregation of a mosque that was shot at by a neighbor will ask for the man to be spared from prison at his sentencing this week, urging forgiveness despite federal prosecutors’ call for him to serve time behind bars.
Ted Hakey Jr. has pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime and apologized to members of the Baitul Aman Mosque in Meriden. Nobody was hurt when he opened fire on the empty building in a drunken burst of anger the night of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
The president of the mosque, Mohammed Qureshi, said even members who still were holding hard feelings forgave Hakey after he made an emotional appearance at the mosque in April and said he had acted out of fear.
“He’s had a change of heart, and I think that’s a true reflection of his real feelings,” Qureshi said.
Hakey faces sentencing Friday in federal court for destruction of religious property. Federal guidelines call for him to serve eight to 14 months in prison.
Without offering a specific recommendation, prosecutors argued in a court filing that at least some period of incarceration is warranted at a time when the FBI reports such crimes are on the rise. The case also involves one of the first federal hate crimes based on religious bias to be charged in Connecticut, prosecutors said.
“A sentence of incarceration is warranted both as a sign that courts will treat these crimes seriously — especially crimes such as this that involved an act of violence — and reflect that assaults on religious property are crimes that will not be tolerated in a society protected by a Constitution that guarantees religious freedom,” prosecutors wrote.
Hakey, 49, consumed about 10 alcoholic drinks at a bar before coming home and firing a handgun and rifle from his yard, striking the mosque at least four times, investigators said. He also was found to have made several anti-Muslim posts on social media.
An attorney for Hakey urged the court in his filing to spare his client of prison time.
Qureshi, who plans to read a statement from his congregation at the sentencing, said it has been guided by its faith.
“If somebody has already sought repentance and they are sorry for what they did,” he said, “it is better to forgive for the greater good of the community.”