Former US attorney for North Dakota, Tim Purdon, said such cases take time to build.
“I would be surprised if a federal charge were not made in this case,” he said.
The case in question concerns vandalism at the Moorhead Fargo Islamic Center, which was defaced late Saturday night with racial slurs, anti-Islamic sentiment and video game references.
Benjamin Enderle, 22, of Moorhead, was arrested Tuesday after a Walmart employee noticed the coat in police photos matched the coat of a person who bought spray pain at a nearby store over the weekend.
State-level indictments give the Minnesota government more time to craft a stronger case, Purdon said.
“It enables you to take the alleged perpetrator off the street and into custody,” he said.
Purdon believes there are two federal civil rights crimes in this case: one for damaging religious property and one for interfering with a federally protected activity.
It would take a normal federal case a few weeks to get indictments against the grand jury, he said. When it comes to federal hate crimes, this process can be delayed by a few weeks as it goes through an approval process in Washington, DC
“I suspect there are civil rights attorneys in Minneapolis who are looking at this case very carefully,” Purdon said.
Purdon oversaw the prosecution of Dominque Flanigan, who had spent a year in federal prison 10 years ago for leaving a threatening message in a Fargo synagogue.
Most recently, a man from East Grand Forks was sentenced to 15 years in prison for bombing a Somali cafe.
“There are fewer things more important to a US law firm than making sure someone who has been proven unequivocally guilty is held accountable,” Purdon said.
The two federal charges mentioned by Purdon last a maximum of four years in federal prison.
Federal penalties are usually much harsher than state court sentences.