U.P. man convicted of defacing synagogue

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan man affiliated with a white supremacist group has been found guilty of defacing a Jewish synagogue.

Nathan Weeden, a 23-year-old from Houghton, was convicted by a jury in federal court Thursday in Marquette. The charges stem from an incident that happened in September of 2019.

According to the Department of Justice, Weeden is a member of “The Base,” a white-supremacist organization with chapters across the United States. Weeden, along with two other men — Richard Tobin and Yousef Barasneh — used an encrypted messaging platform to devise a plan to vandalize “property associated with African Americans and Jewish Americans.”

They called their plan “Operation Kristallnacht,” which references two days in 1938 when Nazis attacked and killed Jews and destroyed their homes, synagogues and businesses.

Prosecutors say Weeden carried out the plan on Sept. 21, 2019. He allegedly spray-painted swastikas and symbols associated with The Base on the exterior walls of Temple Jacob in Hancock. He then reportedly bragged about his actions to the other men, saying: “Went good. Got articles written!”

Weeden was indicted and arrested last June.

On Thursday, the jury found him guilty of both charges: one count of damaging religious property and one count of conspiracy. Both Tobin and Barasneh have previously been convicted of similar charges. In total, he faces up to 11 years in prison and up to $350,000 in fines.

U.S. Attorney Mark Totten called Weeden’s actions disgraceful.

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“Such conduct is unacceptable and criminal under any circumstances but doing so in furtherance of a self-described ‘Operation Kristallnacht’ conspiracy is beyond disgraceful. Antisemitism has no place in our society, and the Justice Department will aggressively prosecute white supremacists who seek to threaten and intimidate others from exercising their federally and constitutionally protected rights,” Totten said in a release.

Federal investigators are also using the conviction to remind the public to do its part to help stop hate and violence. Everyone is asked to report suspicious or threatening behavior to the FBI. The agency has a tipline — 1.800.CALL.FBI — and can take reports online here.

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