EUGENE, Ore. — A man who threatened worshippers at an Oregon mosque has pleaded guilty to charges of intimidation and harassment. But he will be released from jail because of the time he’s already served.
Lane County Judge Maurice Merten sentenced Chad Russell on Friday to 60 days in jail and three years on probation. Russell, 44, has spent 2½ months in jail since his May arrest, exceeding the 60-day penalty.
The Oregon committee of the Council on American-Islamic Relations released a statement criticizing the sentence as too lenient.
“We are disappointed that the perpetrator of multiple hate crimes will spend only two months in prison,” the statement said. “We believe this sends a troubling message to potential perpetrators of hate crimes and also serves to deter future reporting by victims.”
Police said Russell confronted worshippers at the Eugene Islamic Center on May 8 and verbally threatened to kill them. He was arrested the following day after shouting racial slurs at a man in a Eugene park. Police found a knife in his backpack.
Public defender Allison Knight told The Register-Guard (http://bit.ly/2vJo4eZ ) her client served in both the Army and the Navy, suffers from brain damage and does not hold anti-Muslim beliefs.
Knight said she understands why victims in the case are frustrated. But given Russell’s limited criminal history, his brain damage and his military service — all of which can be considered mitigating factors in sentencing — the punishment is appropriate, she said.
“While this is certainly a terrible crime, it’s a class A misdemeanor,” Knight said.
Russell declined to make a statement in court.