Man Charged With Hate Crime For Vandalizing Islamic Center At Rutgers, Prosecutors Say

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A man accused of vandalizing an Islamic center at New Jersey’s flagship university on the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr has been charged with a hate crime, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

Jacob Beacher, 24, of North Plainfield, faces single counts of intentional or attempted obstruction of religious practice and making false statements to federal authorities. He was scheduled to make his initial court appearance Monday afternoon and was being represented by the federal public defender's office, which does not comment on cases.

The charges stem from an April 10 break-in at the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Prosecutors said Beacher damaged property at the site, including several religious artifacts and numerous other items that contained holy language from the Quran, Islam’s sacred scripture. Authorities said Beacher also stole a Palestinian flag and a charity box belonging to the center.

The overall damage has been estimated at $40,000. Beacher is not affiliated with Rutgers, officials said.

The site was unoccupied when the break-in occurred around 2:40 a.m., prosecutors said. A motive has not been disclosed.

While speaking with the FBI two days after the break-in, Beacher said he was the person seen near the center in video surveillance footage but denied breaking into the site.

The incident came a few weeks after the state attorney general's office had reported a recent spike in bias incidents in New Jersey.

The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it welcomed the charges, adding that the vandalism is an example of “bigoted violence” that Muslim, Palestinian and allied students are facing on college campuses across the country.

Officials with the Islamic center said they were “humbled by the amazing and generous outpouring from the Rutgers community and the community at large” since the break-in.