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Man Who Threatened Eugene Islamic Center Released On Probation to Criticism from Victims

A 44-year-old Eugene man charged with threatening to kill worshippers at a Eugene mosque last spring escaped prison time when a judge approved a plea deal in court on Friday, July 21 that gave him 36 months’ probation.

Chad Everett Russell could have faced a year in prison for second-degree intimidation and a $6,000 fine for each of the charges he pleaded guilty to.

His release drew sharp criticism from his victims. “We’re just really concerned because it seems like there are two systems of justice that are being practiced — one against people of color and one against white individuals in this state,” said Zakir Khan, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Russell appeared for his sentencing hearing in Lane County Circuit Court and accepted a deal dismissing two counts of menacing. He pleaded guilty to two counts of intimidation in the second degree and harassment. Russell walked into the Eugene Islamic Center on May 8 and threatened to kill its worshipers, according to Eugene police. On May 9, he was seen urinating in Monroe park and reorded in a video becoming aggressive and making threats against people in the parks in front of children. 

Prosecutor David Mintz recapped Russell’s actions in May. “He threated to blow his (the victim’s) head off,” Mintz said of Russell’s actions in Monroe Park. Mintz added that this has “affected the entire Islamic Community and caused great fear and concern."

At the hearing, Aaron Martin, a victim of Russell’s threats, said the “charges did not fit the crime.”

“Every day my kids ask me, ‘what happened to that guy?’ What am I supposed to tell them?” Martin said. “Today is a sad day. I fear for my life, and I fear for my kids’ lives.”

Khan also said he was displeased with the plea agreement. “I’ve talked to many victims. Many of the women fear for their lives.”

Russell’s attorney, Allison Knight, told the court that Russell has “a very significant history of head trauma” from serving in the military. In 2014, she said, Russell was hit by a car and lost consciousness for a significant period of time. A physician’s evaluation of Russell found he has “ongoing and permanent brain damage,” and the damage to his frontal cortex affects his impulse control as well as his ability to make judgments and control his anger management, according to his attorney.

Russell, who served 74 days in jail before his release, is prohibited from contacting the victims or visiting the mosque and is not allowed to possess weapons or consume alcohol. A gun was found in his home and he had a knife when he was arrested May 9.

Alex Reasoner, a member of the Eugene Islamic Center, said the DA didn’t notify members of the mosque about the deal until Thursday, July 20. “We did not have an opportunity to create a statement; we did not have an opportunity to speak to the community members; the community member who was listed as a victim was notified last night and was not able to get off work today, so he couldn’t attend this himself,” Reasoner said. “So he couldn’t speak in his own defense.”

“On behalf of the council on American Islamic Relations Oregon as well as the Eugene Islamic Community, we’re greatly displeased by the verdict in this case,” Khan said.

“What we needed today was a DA who was willing to, one, be courageous in the face of this case and not just plead this case out but take it to trial like he told us he would. And, second, like he told the Muslim community that he would make an example out of this individual so the rest of the state could see that these types of hate crimes are unacceptable.”

Eugene Weekly first reported that the FBI was working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the EPD on this case. Kevin Sonoff, a spoeksman for the U.S. Attorney, said after the hearing that his office had no comment about ongoing investigations. Mintz had no comment after the hearing.