A federal civil rights indictment has been returned against two young men accused of using raw bacon, spray paint and Nazi gas masks to deface and damage a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in July.
Charles Dwight Stout III, 19, and Thomas Avery Gibbs, 18, were identified and arrested by the FBI after they admitted involvement in the racist, religious vandalism in conversations with friends, charging documents allege.
Both are charged in a grand jury indictment with conspiracy and committing a civil rights violation by “damaging and defacing” the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. Stout also faces a third count, alleging he obstructed a federal investigation by deleting photos he took of the vandalism with his cell phone.
After both defendants entered not guilty pleas in Nashville, U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger on Wednesday set their trial for November 7, but that date could be postponed if defense attorney ask for more time for preparation.
A superseding indictment, replacing initial charges filed in August, alleges that the two men developed a “plan to damage, deface and destroy” the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro on July 10. The alleged conspiracy affected interstate commerce “because of the religious character” of the facility, the indictment says.
Once at the mosque, the pair “put on masks to conceal their identities and spelled out ‘F--- Allah’ in bacon and in spray paint at several locations on or near an entrance” to the center, the indictment says.
One of the masks, later recovered hidden in an old truck, is believed to be a World War II-era Nazi gas mask.
The indictment also says a forensic examination of Stout’s cell phone by the FBI revealed “anti-Muslim images and photos of Nazi soldiers and Hitler” along with proof the vandalism pictures had been deleted.
The Islamic Center, which holds daily prayer services for practitioners of the Islamic faith, publicly states its purpose is to building “bridges of understanding and tolerance through maintaining open lines of communication with neighbors and community members.” The indictment makes note of the fact that the Islamic faith prohibits consumption of pork.
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