Champaign teen sentenced for defacing headstones with swastikas

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — A Champaign teenager has been sentenced to probation after he pleaded guilty to spray painting racist messages and symbols at gravesites in November.

Dominic Koca, 18, pleaded guilty on Monday to two counts of committing a hate crime in a cemetery, and was sentenced to two years of probation. A third count was dropped as part of the plea agreement.

In addition, he must perform 200 hours of community service over a 20-month period, take part in an educational program that discourages hate crimes, comply with treatment recommended by a forensic psychiatrist and refrain from consuming alcohol, marijuana or other drugs.

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Koca has been forthcoming about his actions since he was arrested on Nov. 2. Prosecutors and police officials said he admitted he was behind two instances of racist symbols and slurs being displayed in public — one in a park and one at a cemetery.

The first instance happened at Mattis Park on Nov. 1. A swastika was found painted on the sidewalk and another was on a flag hung from a tree. Koca said that when Champaign County Crime Stoppers referenced this in their bulletins, that enticed him to do more.

The following day, Koca went to St. Mary’s Cemetery in the University of Illinois’ Research Park and defaced nine headstones and mausoleums. He painted on them more swastikas and racial slurs toward Jews and African Americans.

A witness saw this happening and called police, who arrested Koca after he tried to flee.

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The motive, Koca said, was hateful feelings he had toward racial and ethnic groups that had intensified since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East several weeks earlier. Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said he “wanted to be known for something.”

Mental health records submitted in court also revealed that Koca has been diagnosed with autism and has intrusive thoughts and psychosis. That includes voices telling him that he is a Nazi.

Koca faced between three and five years in prison for the cemetery vandalism. He had no criminal record prior to November.

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