Chicago Tribune: Scarf-pulling incident ends in probation for Tinley Park woman

chicago tribuneA woman charged with pulling the headscarf of a Muslim woman in a Tinley Park grocery store in November pleaded guilty to reduced charges Tuesday and was sentenced to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service.

Valerie Kenney, 54, of Tinley Park, was originally charged with a hate crime for the Nov. 7 incident in which she pulled the headscarf of Amal Abusumayah, 28, in the checkout line of a Jewel store at 17117 S. Harlem Ave.

But in a deal with prosecutors, Kenney pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and apologized to Abusumayah and her family in Cook County Judge David Sterba’s courtroom in Bridgeview.

“I’d like to offer a sincere apology to the victim, the victim’s family and to the community,” Kenney said.

Abusumayah said Kenney was complaining loudly in a food aisle about the Muslim Army major who allegedly killed 13 people and injured 29 others during a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, two days earlier.

Minutes later, Kenney approached Abusumayah from behind in the checkout line and pulled her headscarf.

Abusumayah said outside the courtroom Tuesday that she was satisfied with Kenney’s sentence and hoped the experience will teach her to be more tolerant.

“I hope she was sincere in her apology, and I wish her no harm,” she said. “But she got what she deserved. She made the wrong choice that day.”

Kenney also was fined $2,500 and ordered to attend an anger management course focusing on the need to embrace diversity. She faced up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted of a hate crime.

Chief prosecutor Peter Troy said Abusumayah, who was born in the United States and raised in Berwyn, did not want to see Kenney thrown in jail.

“She shared my view that the most important act for Ms. Kenney was to see her be more tolerant of the Muslim community,” Troy said.

An official with the Chicago-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, which became involved in the case, said the backlash against Muslim-Americans had spiked somewhat in the days immediately following the Fort Hood shooting but has subsided.

“We try to rally community support for (victims and their families) and to make sure the state’s attorney is pursuing the case with the utmost importance,” said spokeswoman Christina Abraham.

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