An Arizona woman who has past ties to the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim group Patriot Movement AZ and who damaged a mosque earlier this year could end up spending a month in jail after members of the mosque pressed for a tougher punishment at her sentencing hearing Thursday.
Elizabeth Dauenhauer was hit with the news a day after her 52nd birthday. As expected, she was sentenced to 18 months of probation and 200 hours of community service as part of a plea agreement she struck with prosecutors last month.
But in a twist at the hearing, Maricopa County prosecutor Neha Bhatia said members of the Islamic Community Center of Tempe were present in the courtroom and wanted the judge to add a month in jail to her sentence — something that was not previously part of the deal. The jail time would be delayed until next year and could be tossed if Dauenhauer does well on probation. But it would add an extra incentive for her to stay on her best behavior.
“Two representatives of the Tempe mosque are present in the courtroom,” Bhatia said. “They are asking that the defendant be sentenced to one month of deferred jail to ensure that she is keeping on track with her probation.”
Despite opposition from Dauenhauer’s defense attorney, Mark Mendoza, the judge agreed to the jail time, which would start on Dec. 1, 2019.
“Your fate is really in your own hands,” Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain told her. “If you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing, come next Christmas you’ll be in jail.”
Dauenhauer and another woman, Tahnee Gonzales, posted live video to Facebook in March showing themselves going on to the grounds of the mosque, using anti-Muslim slurs and removing a number of items, including what they said were copies of the Quran. They brought three of Gonzales’ children along with them and encouraged the kids to take part in anti-Muslim actions. The women were arrested 11 days later.
Both women had previously taken part in events with Patriot Movement AZ, whose founder, Lesa Antone has declared, “Islam is our enemy.”
Dauenhauer pleaded guilty on Oct. 4 to a felony count of aggravated criminal damage. Gonzales has also been charged in the case with two felony counts as well as three misdemeanors of child endangerment. Gonzales has pleaded not guilty.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center first reported in July, the elected county attorney in Maricopa County, Bill Montgomery, had taken the unusual step of personally intervening in the case. Gonzales’ attorney, Marc Victor, told the SPLC that a potential deal being worked out for both defendants in the case was unlikely to include jail time and might instead include some kind of public meeting between Montgomery, the women, and members of the mosque.
There was no sign of that kind of special deal at the sentencing on Thursday.
Dauenhauer spoke only briefly on her own behalf at the hearing.
“I’m very sorry and ashamed of this whole situation,” she said. “I’ve created a complete mess of my life and I’m very sorry to the people that I’ve hurt.”
The judge told her that was an appropriate way to feel.
“Well I suppose the good news is that you are ashamed, because you ought to be,” he said. “It’s horrible thing.”