A woman with ties to the group Patriot Movement AZ (PMAZ) pleaded guilty today to a felony for her role in an anti-Muslim crime at an Arizona mosque earlier this year. But as part of the plea deal, she will face no jail time.
Elizabeth Dauenhauer, 51, was arrested in March after she and another woman posted live video to Facebook showing themselves entering the grounds of the Islamic Community Center of Tempe and removing various items while disparaging Muslims, calling them “Satan worshippers” and pedophiles.
The incident was made all the more shocking by the fact that the other woman, Tahnee Gonzales, 32, brought her three children along. Both women were seen on video encouraging the kids to use anti-Muslim slurs and take part in removing items, including what they said were copies of the Quran.
Prior to the incident, both women had taken part in multiple activities with PMAZ, a group based in the Phoenix suburb of Litchfield Park that routinely spouts anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric. Lesa Antone, the founder of PMAZ, has declared, “Islam is our enemy,” and the group often posts anti-Muslim propaganda on social media.
After the incident at the mosque, however, the group distanced itself from the two women, writing online that “two persons who had previously been affiliated with us have crossed a line that violates our principles and beliefs.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was the first to alert the mosque to the existence of the video on March 5, the day after the incident. An official at the mosque told the SPLC at the time that they had been unaware of what had taken place. The mosque then reported it to the Tempe Police Department. The women were arrested March 15.
Dauenhauer pleaded guilty in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix to a felony count of aggravated criminal damage. As part of the plea, prosecutors agreed to drop another felony charge of burglary.
Gonzales, meanwhile, is still facing a potential trial on Dec. 4 on felony counts of aggravated criminal damage and burglary. She is also facing three misdemeanor counts of child endangerment. The next pre-trial hearing for Gonzales is scheduled for Nov. 1.
Superior Court Judge Mark Brain read in court details of Dauenhauer’s agreement with prosecutors. The deal included no jail time. Instead, Dauenhauer will be placed on probation and have to perform 200 hours of community service. She also agreed to stay away from the mosque while on probation.
The judge said if Dauenhauer completes her sentence, the felony charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor on her record.
Brain scheduled her sentencing for Nov. 8.
The judge told Dauenhauer that without the plea deal, she would have been facing up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000 for the criminal damage charge. If she fails to show up to her sentencing, Brain said he would not be bound by the terms of the plea agreement and could send her to prison.
During the hearing, the judge raised a concern that the deal made no mention of money that Dauenhauer would have to pay to the victims.
“I would have thought that for an aggravated criminal damage charge, there would be restitution potentially,” Brain said.
“There’s also case law that says a plea is invalid unless it caps the amount of restitution that can be ordered,” he said. “That’s why I look in here and see nothing about it and say that’s potentially a problem if someone seeks it.”
Dauenhauer’s attorney, Mark Mendoza, told the judge that prosecutors assured him there would be no need to pay money to the victims. A prosecutor for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office who was present during the hearing told the judge that he didn’t have any knowledge about that part of the deal and would take the defense attorney’s word for it.
The judge accepted Dauenhauer’s guilty plea despite his concerns.
Although there was no jail time included, the deal announced for Dauenhauer was much different than one being talked about earlier this year for both women in the case.
In July, the SPLC reported that the elected Maricopa County attorney, Bill Montgomery, had taken the unusual step of getting directly involved in plea negotiations in the case.
Gonzales’ attorney, Mark Victor, said at the time that he had reached out to Montgomery to come up with an unusual deal that might have included a meeting between the defendants, members of the mosque and Montgomery himself.