WASHINGTON – A federal felony criminal complaint was filed in Nashville, Tenn., today against three men for their roles in burning down and vandalizing the Islamic Center of Columbia in Columbia, Tenn., announced Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, Edward M. Yarbrough, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, James M. Cavanaugh, Special Agent in Charge of the Nashville Division of the ATF, My Harrison, Special Agent in Charge of the Memphis Division of the FBI, and Barry Crotzner, Chief of the Columbia Police Department.
The complaint charges the three men, Eric Ian Baker, Michael Corey Golden, and Jonathan Edward Stone, all of Columbia, with unlawful possession of a destructive device.
According to the complaint, Baker, Golden and Stone had planned for approximately one week to burn down the Islamic Center. On Feb. 9, 2008, the defendants used gasoline, rags and empty beer bottles to fashion incendiary devices. They went to the Islamic Center, where Baker spray-painted three swastikas onto the walls of the building, along with the phrases “We run the world” and “White Power.” Golden and Stone then broke into the building, ignited the incendiary devices and used them to ignite the Islamic Center. The Islamic Center was severely damaged by the fire.
“The Department of Justice takes hate crimes very seriously, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will prosecute such crimes vigorously and to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Yarbrough.
“Three individuals who are accused of fire bombing a place of worship face federal charges today. Today begins a court process to hold the individuals accountable for an act which destroyed religious property and shocked a community,” said Special Agent Cavanaugh. “We are fortunate despite the loss of property and a sense of sadness, that no one was killed or injured from the incident.”
If convicted, defendants Baker, Golden and Stone face a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
A federal felony criminal complaint is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
This case remains under investigation by the ATF, the FBI and the Columbia Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal McDonough of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti of the Criminal Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.