MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT) — A Texas man has been indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of violating the civil rights of members of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
Federal officials say 24 year-old Corpus Christi, Texas, resident Javier Alan Correa phoned a threat into the Murfreesboro Mosque September 5, 2011, promising that a bomb would go off in the mosque on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Javier Correa faces one count of obstructing the free exercise of religion by threat and one count of using interstate phone lines to threaten destruction by means of an explosive device.
The Department of Justice says Correa could face a maximum penalty of 20 years for the first count and 10 years more for the second count.
Officials say he’s being given a chance to surrender on his own to authorities.
United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Jerry E. Martin made the announcement Thursday afternoon while standing in front of the nearly complete mosque. Martin was backed by agents with the FBI and the ATF, along with Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold.
Martin was blunt in his comments, saying that the Department of Justice intends to “protect the rights afforded under the Constitution to all individuals,” including the “right to exercise the freedom of religious beliefs."
The U.S. Attorney also used the occasion to say that the Department of Justice is closely watching the ongoing court battle over the Islamic Center’s construction. He noted that the DOJ had submitted an amicus brief early in the court proceedings in support of Murfreesboro’s Islamic community.
An agent with the ATF told reporters that an investigation into the August, 2010, destruction of equipment on the Center’s construction site is still under active investigation.
Sheriff Robert Arnold commented that he was elected to protect the lives and property of every Rutherford County citizen.
Mosque opponents turned out for the federal press conference. In comments to reporters following the conference, local resident Elizabeth Coker wondered if federal agents were investigating other possible causes for vandalism at the mosque site, including the possibility that mosque members committed the vandalism in an effort to gain sympathy for their cause.
Middle Tennessee State student Jihan Abdulla also turned out for the press conference. Abdulla, a Muslim, attends the Murfreesboro mosque when she's in town. She told reporters she was pleased to hear about the indictments and hopes it will serve as a warning to others that justice will prevail.