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Press Release

Jackson Man Pleads Guilty To Federal Civil Rights Charge Of Desecrating Religious Paraphernalia

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Tennessee

Jackson, TN – Justin Shawn Baker, 25, of Jackson, TN, was sentenced to 12 months in prison following his guilty plea of violating the civil rights of students and faculty of the Margolin Hebrew Academy by defacing a Torah and religious prayer books, announced U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III.

According to information contained in the indictment and facts revealed during today’s sentencing hearing, on or about January 12, 2013, students and faculty of the Margolin Hebrew Academy were staying overnight at the Doubletree Hotel in Jackson en route to Gatlinburg, TN. While there, they used a meeting room at the hotel to conduct a Sabbath worship service. A Torah, religious books, and musical instruments were left in the meeting room overnight with the intention of continuing worship services on the following morning.

The facts presented today further revealed Baker admitted that while employed as a security guard at the hotel, he discovered the items in the room, and defaced the Torah, the prayer books, and the musical instruments with profanity, anti-Semitic phrases, and Satanic writing. He also admitted to spitting on the Torah. Photographic evidence presented during the hearing confirmed that the Torah was defaced with profanity and phrases including “Hail Satan.”

In addition to the prison sentence, Chief U.S. District Judge J. Daniel Breen ordered Baker to pay $9,999.99 in restitution to Margolin Hebrew Academy and to serve one year of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.

This case was investigated by the FBI and is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Laurenzi and Trial Attorney Douglas Kern of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.

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Updated March 19, 2015