Egyptian imam pleads guilty to molestation at US mosque

Tampa, Florida— An Egyptian imam accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy at a Tampa mosque in Florida pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, and will be deported, US media reported early Friday.

A judge put Yasser Mohamed Shahade, 35, on probation for 10 years and designated him a sexual offender. Shahade, who is in the United States on a visa, will be deported to Egypt, the Associated Press reported.

He faced 15 years in prison if convicted of the initial charge, sexual battery on a minor. His attorney confirmed that he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of lewd and lascivious molestation.

Shahade had been charged with raping the boy, but prosecutors agreed to lower the charge in exchange for the plea.

South Tampa news website reported that Shahade has been held without bail since his arrest.

The Florida-based website quoted Assistant State Attorney Brandon Kuhn as saying that the boy was molested while he and other youngsters were sharing a bed with Shahade at the mosque.

According to the ABC, prosecutors said the incident took place last year during an overnight stay at the Masjid Omar Al Mukhtar mosque. At the time, police released few details about the boy’s condition. They said the boy’s family called the police after the boy spent the night at the mosque.

Assistant Public Defender Maria Pavlidis, however, told South Tampa that there were a number of holes in the state’s case, including conflicting statements by the victim, the absence of DNA evidence and the testimony of the other boys who said they saw nothing improper.

It is unclear if Shahade will face any charges in Egypt.

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