Church vandalism psychological problem, not hate crime - New York News

Church vandalism psychological problem, not hate crime

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Meghan Heinze / photo from Gurnee police Meghan Heinze / photo from Gurnee police
WAUKEGAN, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Citing an improperly diagnosed psychological disorder as the cause of a north suburban woman’s church vandalism spree, prosecutors and attorneys endorsed a probationary sentence on Wednesday.

After determining that Meghan Heinze’s motivation did not constitute a hate crime, Judge Raymond Collins approved the negotiated guilty plea, the News-Sun is reporting.

The 22-year-old Gurnee woman was sentenced to one year of misdemeanor probation. If violated, she would have to serve a 180-day jail term. She was also ordered to pay court costs, outstanding restitution to the churches involved, and have no contact with any of the institutions.

Under terms of the agreement, Heinze pleaded guilty to criminal damage to property, a misdemeanor. She had faced felony charges of institutional vandalism and defacement.

Heinze was accused of vandalizing and defacing 21 churches in February prior to her arrest by Gurnee police. Officers recognized her after videotape captured a woman spray-painting a church and leaving the scene in a light-colored SUV.

Assistant Lake County State’s Attorney Steve Scheller said his office had been in contact with leaders of the churches involved and all supported the misdemeanor plea. Only three requested restitution, Scheller said, while the rest addressed the damage through donations or volunteer work.

Heinze’s attorney, Evan Winer, said his client was able to pay the required restitution.

He said Heinze had suffered a “significant” psychological disorder that had been misdiagnosed, and has since been properly diagnosed and is being treated.

“There is no question in my mind this was not a hate crime,” Winer told Judge Collins.

Prosectors agreed the crimes were the result of personal problems.

Heinze has been free on $5,000 cash bond.

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