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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Tennessee

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Jackson Man Indicted On Federal Civil Rights Charge Related To Desecration Of Religious Paraphernalia

Memphis, TN – A federal grand jury in Memphis has returned a one-count indictment charging Justin Shawn Baker, 25, of Jackson, TN, with violating the civil rights of students and faculty of the Margolin Hebrew Academy.

The indictment alleges that on or about January 12, 2013, Baker defaced a Torah and religious prayer books, which the students and faculty of Memphis’ Margolin Hebrew Academy were using for a worship service conducted at the Doubletree Hotel in Jackson.

“Freedom to practice one’s religion without prejudice is one of the bedrock principles upon which our nation was founded,” said Edward L. Stanton III, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. “Criminal acts such as those alleged in the indictment represent an attack upon the rights that generations of Americans have fought and died to ensure and protect. Our dedicated civil rights unit will continue to protect and defend the rights of our citizens through vigorous enforcement of federal law.”
“This kind of vandalism strikes at the heart of religious freedom in this country, and it will not be tolerated,” said Roy L. Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Our nation’s civil rights laws protect all denominations, and those who would strike at the right of peaceful citizens to worship will be held accountable.”

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Larry Laurenzi and Jonathan Skrmetti of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Douglas Kern of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.

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The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated March 19, 2015