January 9, 2002 at 8:28 PM EST - Updated July 12 at 3:11 AM
CLEVELAND (AP) - A judge sentenced a man to five years in prison Wednesday on his guilty plea to ramming Ohio's largest mosque with his car six days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Kathleen Ann Sutula sentenced Eric M. Richley, 29, of suburban Middleburg Heights, on burglary, ethnic intimidation and vandalism charges.
He admitted driving the 1993 Ford Mustang up three stairs and through two sets of doors of the Islamic Center of Cleveland, located in nearby Parma. He smashed through a 3-foot wall, knocked over three pillars and landed on a fountain in a rotunda.
Richley (pictured, above) was in court in a wheelchair because of injuries he suffered in the crash. He broke bones in his back and both feet.
Richley, who has denied the ramming was a case of ethnic or religious bigotry, said he had been drinking at the time. "I never meant to hurt them or anybody except myself," he told the judge.
Prosecutors said Richley had told police that he was upset about the attacks, that his brother was in the military and that he had crashed into the mosque for political reasons.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)