The 29-year-old who pleaded “no contest” Tuesday in connection with the Nov. 28, 2010, arson at Corvallis’ Salman Al-Farisi says he is not admitting guilt but is “done fighting” to plead his innocence.
Cody Seth Crawford pleaded “no contest” Tuesday in US District Court in Eugene to a charge of damaging religious property. Crawford was indicted in August 2011 on one count of damage to religious property and one count of use of fire to commit a felony. The no contest plea allows Crawford to not admit guilt, “but accept a finding of guilt by the court,” according to court documents. With the no contest plea, the government agreed to drop the count of use of fire to commit a felony.
The Nov. 28, 2010, fire happened after someone reportedly broke out a mosque window and threw in a two-liter soda bottle of flammable liquid, according to investigators. The fire extensively damaged an office at the mosque, which was repaired as a community effort.
Investigators reportedly recovered a soda bottle, cap and flashlight that initially tested positive for Crawford’s DNA, according to court documents. As recently as a few months ago, federal prosecutors and the defense sparred over the DNA evidence, postponing the jury trial for the case.
“I have never once admitted I was guilty of this crime at the Islamic center, I feel that it was a very unfortunate thing that took place,” Crawford said in an emailed statement to the Gazette-Times, adding that he wanted to take the “safe bet.” “The (no contest) plea is me saying ‘I am done fighting, my family wanted to take the stand and defend my innocence but I will not let them.’ I have already lost so much of my life to terrible things; I have faith that there is a light at the end of this tunnel.”
Crawford added that he has been housed for the past 14 months in the Oregon State Hospital. Crawford was originally placed on home detention following his August 2011 indictment, but Crawford was committed to the Oregon State Hospital in May 2014 after pleading guilty except for insanity to a charge of unlawful use of a weapon in Polk County, according to court records. Crawford was sentenced to the mental institution for up to five years.
“I hope to leave here someday with my full faculties and without a broken spirit,” Crawford concluded in his emailed statement.
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Mozafar Wanly, a mosque elder at Salman Al-Farisi, said that Crawford “is already forgiven.”
“From the beginning, we have said we are not against him with anything,” Wanly said Wednesday. “We have nothing against him.”
Wanly recalled a reporter asking him the day after the fire, if he could speak to the person who did it, what he might say.
“On that first day I said the same thing I say today,” Wanly said. “I will tell him you have wrong information about Islam. Islam is a religion of peace. Read about Islam and you will feel sorry for yourself.”
Wanly then recalled the response from the community in the days following the fire. Oregon State University students held a peace rally the day after the fire in front of the Memorial Union. On Dec. 1, 2010, more than 300 people gathered at the mosque to speak of unity and peace.
“From our side, the only concern is we need the community to continue that message of peace and safety,” Wanly said. “We need and want this community to be safe. Not just the Muslim community, the Christian community, the Jewish community, the whole community.”