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Arlington man faces civil rights charges in fire at mosque

23 February 2011 General No Comment Email This Post Email This Post

By JASON TRAHAN

Staff Writer from The Dallas Morning News

A 34-year-old Arlington man faces federal civil rights charges on allegations that he set fire to playground equipment at a South Arlington mosque last summer.

Henry Glaspell faces a maximum of 20 years if convicted of damaging or destroying religious property in a July 25 fire at the Dar El Eman Islamic Center on Mansfield Road near Green Oaks Boulevard.

Glaspell is accused of setting playground equipment on fire there “because of the race, color and ethnic characteristics of the individuals associated with that property,” according to the criminal complaint.

Glaspell is expected to enter a plea Wednesday morning in federal court in Fort Worth. He made an initial appearance before a judge Tuesday but was released while the case is pending.

Glaspell could not be reached Tuesday evening. His court-appointed attorney, William Hermesmeyer, had no comment when reached at his office Tuesday evening.

The case is being prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Jamal Qaddura, former president of the board of the Dar El Eman Islamic Center, said Glaspell was caught on surveillance video starting the fire. Two days before, Qaddura said, the cameras captured him spray-painting obscenities on the center’s parking lot.

The fire and vandalism occurred as controversy raged nationally over the construction of the “ground zero mosque” in New York.

“We guess that’s what whipped him up,” Qaddura said Tuesday. Records show that Glaspell lives about a half-mile from the mosque.

About two months after the incidents, Glaspell showed up at the mosque and spoke to congregants leaving a prayer service.

“He came wanting to speak to me and my board, I guess to try to make some kind of settlement,” Qaddura said. “This is after he was contacted by the FBI.”

Mosque officials called Arlington police, who issued Glaspell a criminal trespass warning. He was later arrested for outstanding warrants, Arlington police said.

The fire destroyed about $20,000 worth of playground equipment, Qaddura said. The mosque subsequently put up a $40,000 fence and installed a new $12,000 surveillance system.

“It’s cheaper than replacing a mosque that’s been burned down,” he said. “We want people to feel safe when they come to worship.”

Glaspell is accused of setting playground equipment on fire there “because of the race, color and ethnic characteristics of the individuals associated with that property,” according to the criminal complaint.

Glaspell is expected to enter a plea Wednesday morning in federal court in Fort Worth. He made an initial appearance before a judge Tuesday but was released while the case is pending.

Glaspell could not be reached Tuesday evening. His court-appointed attorney, William Hermesmeyer, had no comment when reached at his office Tuesday evening.

The case is being prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Jamal Qaddura, former president of the board of the Dar El Eman Islamic Center, said Glaspell was caught on surveillance video starting the fire. Two days before, Qaddura said, the cameras captured him spray-painting obscenities on the center’s parking lot.

The fire and vandalism occurred as controversy raged nationally over the construction of the “ground zero mosque” in New York.

“We guess that’s what whipped him up,” Qaddura said Tuesday. Records show that Glaspell lives about a half-mile from the mosque.

About two months after the incidents, Glaspell showed up at the mosque and spoke to congregants leaving a prayer service.

“He came wanting to speak to me and my board, I guess to try to make some kind of settlement,” Qaddura said. “This is after he was contacted by the FBI.”

Mosque officials called Arlington police, who issued Glaspell a criminal trespass warning. He was later arrested for outstanding warrants, Arlington police said.

The fire destroyed about $20,000 worth of playground equipment, Qaddura said. The mosque subsequently put up a $40,000 fence and installed a new $12,000 surveillance system.

“It’s cheaper than replacing a mosque that’s been burned down,” he said. “We want people to feel safe when they come to worship.”

Original post: Arlington man faces civil rights charges in fire at mosque

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