DAVIS (CBS13) — Lauren Kirk-Coehlo, who pled guilty to felony charges for vandalizing of the Islamic Center of Davis, was sentenced to five years probation on Friday.
Her crimes were caught on surveillance camera, but it’s what she said off camera that is raising red flags.
“The social media postings that she had, and the chats we were able to recover, showed that she harbored extreme feeling where she wanted to hurt people,” explained Ryan Couzens, with the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office.
The judge said jail time was an option but in the end, decided against it.
Back in January, Kirk-Coehlo, 30, vandalized the Islamic Center of Davis, breaking windows, damaging property and placing bacon on door handles – a way to antagonize Muslims who don’t eat pork.
Kirk-Coehlo, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, pleaded guilty to the felony vandalism charges with a hate crime enhancement. But instead of jail time, she given five years probation and has been banned from social media for five years, given community service, ordered weekly psychiatric counseling and must pay $7,000 in restitution. She also will not be allowed to own a firearm.
The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office wanted Kirk-Coehlo to go to jail – especially considering the motive behind her attack.
“We can’t live in a free society if people’s political views are expressed through violence,” said Couzens.
It has been a difficult six months for the local Muslim community. Four local mosques have been attacked attacked or vandalized – twice at the Islamic Center of Davis. There was also last week’s anti-Shariah march in Roseville.
“A felony conviction is something that will follow her for the rest of her life, and 5 years probation is no joke either,” said Saad Sweilem. He’s a civil rights attorney based in Sacramento.
Like many, he’s pleased a decision has been reached, but he also points to what he calls “Islamophobic rhetoric” used during the trail used to justify what Kirk-Coehle did. He also has concerns with what seems like a light sentence.
“People might view attacks on the Muslim community as something that won’t be taken too seriously or with consequences, and that maybe people will get off lightly,” said Sweilem. “It further antagonizes the Muslim community, and they were already the victim in this case.”
Meanwhile, back at the Islamic Center, families gathered to at sunset on Friday to break their fast during this the final 10 days of the Islamic month of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk.
They have received a lot of support from the community. Inside the mosque, the walls are decorated with pictures drawn by local elementary school students and letters from the residents and community leaders from the greater Davis community following Kirk-Coehlo’s attack.
Many say it’s time to forgive and move on.
“It’s the holy month of Ramadan for us Muslims. It’s about forgiving and being a better person. We don’t want to see this young woman punished for the rest of her life. Hopefully , he will learn from this,” said one college student, who came to the mosque for the weekly Friday midday congregational prayer service and who did not want to be identified.
Kirk-Coehlo has already spent some time in jail. Along with her probation, part of her sentencing includes restorative justice, which means she will have to come to the mosque to learn more about the community she attacked, under the supervision of the DA office.
CBS13 did reach out to Ms. Kirk-Coehlo for comment, but did not hear back. Her attorneys told CBS 13 that they will not be commenting on this case.