A Fayetteville, North Carolina man was sentenced today in the Middle District of North Carolina to eight months of home confinement for threatening members of the Masjid Al Madina Mosque in Raeford, North Carolina, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Hairston of the Middle District of North Carolina.
Russell Thomas Langford, 36, pleaded guilty on Nov. 7, 2016, to a one-count Information that charged him with a felony for threatening mosque members in order to obstruct their free exercise of religious beliefs.
As a result of his plea, Langford admitted that on June 9, 2016, he threatened several mosque members and used a dangerous weapon in doing so. On that date, Langford repeatedly drove past the Masjid Al Madina Mosque. Eventually, he saw a mosque member leaving the area. Langford followed the mosque member to his home before returning to the mosque. Back at the mosque, Langford approached another mosque member, identified by the initials M.K. Langford threatened to kill M.K. and bury M.K. on the mosque premises, before pointing a firearm in M.K.’s direction. Langford then drove away. When Langford returned to the mosque again that night, he was stopped by several mosque members, who called the local authorities.
During his multiple contacts with members of the Masjid Al Madina Mosque, Langford repeatedly referred to mosque members using derogatory anti-Muslim terms. Langford admitted that he knew Masjid Al Madina was a mosque and that the people he targeted with his threats were engaged in activities related to the mosque. Accordingly, in pleading guilty, Langford admitted that he acted intentionally to threaten the mosque’s members and obstruct their religious exercise.
“The free exercise of religion is a foundational principle of our society,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wheeler. “Hateful threats designed to obstruct this right to religious freedom and to intimidate members of a religion simply because of their beliefs have no place in our communities. An attack on one religion is an attack on all religions. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute crimes motivated by religious animus.”
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Hoke County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Graham Green of the Middle District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Julia Gegenheimer of the Civil Rights Division.