New Haven Register 2016/06/17 Anna Bisaro
HARTFORD >> A man who fired rifle shots towards a Meriden mosque in the hours following the terror attacks in Paris last year, was sentenced Friday to six months in federal prison, with credit for time served, followed by a period of three years of supervised release.
Jeffrey Cohen, the defense attorney representing Ted Hakey, Jr. in a case involving damage to religious property, leaves the federal court house Friday after a sentence of 6 months in prison was imposed on Hakey. Hakey fired shots at a mosque in Meriden in November following news of the terror attacks in Paris.Anna Bisaro — New Haven Register
Ted Hakey, Jr., 48, of Meriden, appeared before U.S. District Judge Michael Shea apologetic and remorseful for his actions and said he wanted to dedicate his life to educating others about the Islamic faith.
“I didn’t have hatred for Muslims, I had hatred for terrorists, but the lines started to become blurred,” Hakey said of his decision to fire shots at the Baitul Aman Mosque on Main Street in Meriden in the early morning hours of Nov. 15. “I have come to learn that terrorists do not follow Islam.”
In addition to the sentence, Hakey was ordered to pay $5,130 to the mosque. He was ordered to self surrender to the bureau of prisons on Aug. 15.
on the evening of Nov. 15, 2015 Meriden police responded to a call from the Baitul Aman Mosque, where there were reports of bullet holes and damage caused by shots fired at the building.
Based on the trajectory of the bullets, law enforcement determined they had been fired from a high-powered rifle from the direction of Hakey’s house, according to court documents.
Hakey was arrested on Dec. 18, and later formally charged with one count of damage to religious property. Hakey pleaded guilty to that charge in February, and at the change of plea hearing reportedly admitted to consciously choosing the mosque as his target.
Hakey has been free on a $400,000 bond and reportedly apologized to the Baitul Aman community in early April.
Mohammed Querishi, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Connecticut Chapter, spoke on behalf of the mosque community and said he believed that Hakey’s apologies were heartfelt and sincere.
Querishi urged the court to consider no prison term at all for Hakey, given his efforts to apologize to and learn from the mosque community. Querishi said Hakey has helped in a recent Twitter campaign to promote peaceful practices of Muslims since his apology.
“Healing is more important than unnecessary retribution,” Querishi said, adding that the mosque’s community values forgiveness and maintaining peaceful relations.
According to information gathered by prosecutors, when investigators searched Hakey’s home, they found ammunition, a camouflage suit, and a chair near the window in the attic. The window faces the direction of the mosque, according to the government. Hakey was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990, according to court documents.
In addition, a search of Hakey’s internet and social media history showed a pattern of hate speech against Muslims, including a post on Nov. 15 that read, “If the Muslims attack over here again it’s over for them!!!! Americans will snap and play Cowboys and Muslims! It will get ugly I think that’s why they have not done anything.” This post and others like it were shared in a sentencing memorandum from the government to the court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Miller asked the court to consider Hakey’s prior displayed hatred of the Muslim community in imposing a sentence. In addition, Miller said that Hakey’s actions incited fear in the mosque’s community, as bullet holes and casings had been found in the mosque.
“Forgiveness does not preclude that actions have consequences,” Miller said.
Based on accounts from Hakey to a psychologist hired by the defense team, Hakey had had a number alcoholic beverages prior to firing the shots on Nov. 15.
A psychological analysis of Hakey done for the court found that Hakey “presents an interesting combination of healthy and unhealthy behavior,” according to James Connolly, the psychologist who prepared the document at the request of the defense counsel.
Connolly’s report noted Hakey is an episodic alcoholic and he has recently developed a habit of using firearms while intoxicated. The report noted the mosque was hit by the gunfire because of it’s proximity to Hakey’s home, not because of a pledged hate of Muslims.
“I note that it is my professional opinion that there is insufficient evidence that Mr. Hakey may be fairly characterized as having intentionally selected the mosque as the object of his shooting because of the religion of the individuals who worship there,” Connolly wrote. “The nature of the action when considered in its full situational context appears to be more a squalid incident of random alcoholic carelessness rather than the intentional and selective destruction of the place of worship of followers of Islam.”
In addition, Jeffrey Cohen, the attorney representing Hakey in the case, spoke for close to an hour, repeating that his client had been immediately remorseful for his actions and that Hakey’s actions differed from other hate crimes in that his target was not personal or intentional. Cohen said Hakey fired randomly, and it was the geographic proximity of the mosque to his home that resulted in bullets going in that direction.
“I don’t believe he would have gotten in his car to drive to a mosque and shoot at it,” Cohen said.
While Shea credited Hakey for his apology and subsequent actions in educating himself about the Islamic faith, the judge said he would not consider the psychologist’s report as it relied too heavily on self-reported facts from Hakey, and he concluded that Hakey did act intentionally in firing at the mosque. Shea also noted the added danger of mixing alcohol with firearms.
“Your selection of the target in this case makes this crime more serious,” Shea said. “Your crime is very serious and the sentence must reflect that.”
Hakey faced up to 20 years in prison for the crime, but a range of between eight and 14 months had been recommended to the court because of Hakey’s lack of significant criminal history and his acceptance of responsibility.
“We all have a right to worship freely and without fear of violence, and individuals who commit hateful, divisive and violent acts against others need to know that a prison term will be the end result,” said U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly. “This is an appropriate sentence that balances the need for justice with the defendant’s genuine expressions of remorse and the victim’s plea for a sentence that didn’t include jail time.”
Daly also praised the mosque community for accepting Hakey’s apology and turning a bad situation into what Daly described as a positive movement for social change.