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Press Release

White Supremacist Sentenced for Federal Hate Crimes for Conspiracy Targeting Black and Jewish People and Desecrating Michigan Synagogue with Neo-Nazi Symbols

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A Michigan man was sentenced today to 26 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiring with other members of a white supremacist group, The Base, to victimize Black and Jewish people, and for defacing Temple Jacob, a Jewish synagogue in Hancock, Michigan, using swastikas and symbols associated with The Base.

Nathan Weeden, 24, of Houghton, was convicted at trial in January of one count of conspiring to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate any person in the exercise of their rights and one count of intentionally defacing, damaging or destroying religious property because of the race or ethnic characteristics of individuals associated with that property. Weeden's co-conspirators, Richard Tobin, of New Jersey, and Yousef Barasneh, of Wisconsin, both previously pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges related to the incident.

“This sentence sends a strong message that threatening and intimidating people because of their religion, race or ethnic characteristics will not be tolerated in this country,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. “White supremacist-fueled violence is a stain on our history and perpetrators of such violence will be held accountable. No one should live in fear because of who they are, what they believe or where they worship. The Justice Department will continue to investigate and prosecute those who desecrate houses of worship and who conspire to intimidate people seeking to exercise the legal rights guaranteed to all Americans.”   

“Today’s sentencing sends a strong message that hate will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten for the Western District of Michigan. “No one should be the target of hate because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or any other status. When hateful words become hateful acts, my office will use every tool we have to protect the public and secure justice like we did in this case.”

“The impact of the defendant’s crimes extend far beyond destruction of property,” said Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “The FBI will not accept hate-driven threats of violence intended to emotionally and/or physically harm victims and will rigorously investigate anyone conspiring to vandalize houses of worship and intimidate other from safely practicing their religion.”

“Accountability matters. Today’s sentence is representative of our community's views on hate crime-inspired violence. People who engage in this behavior will be identified and fully prosecuted by the law,” said Special Agent in Charge James Deir of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Detroit Field Division. “ATF is steadfast in its commitment to protecting everyone across this great state against violent criminals fueled by hatred and intolerance.”

The evidence at trial established that, in September 2019, Weeden, Tobin and Barasneh, all members of The Base, used an encrypted messaging platform to discuss vandalizing property associated with Black and Jewish Americans. Weeden and his co-conspirators dubbed their plan, "Operation Kristallnacht” — a term that means "Night of Broken Glass,” and refers to events that took place on Nov. 9 and 10, 1938, when Nazis murdered Jews and burned and destroyed their homes, synagogues, schools and places of business. Weeden carried out this plan on Sept. 21, 2019, when he spray-painted swastikas and symbols associated with The Base on the outside walls of Temple Jacob.

The FBI Detroit Field Office investigated the case, with assistance from the ATF and Hancock Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler for the Western District of Michigan and Trial Attorney Eric Peffley of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.

Updated June 4, 2024

Hate Crimes
Press Release Number: 24-697