WASHINGTON, March 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Senior Judge Robert L. Echols of the Middle District of Tennessee today sentenced Eric Ian Baker to 183 months in prison for vandalizing and burning down the Islamic Center of Columbia, Tenn., the Justice Department announced. Baker pleaded guilty on Sept. 18, 2009, to destruction of religious property and using fire to commit a felony.
Baker, 34, previously admitted to the court that he and two others constructed Molotov cocktail explosive devices, ignited them and used them to destroy the mosque on Feb. 9, 2008. Baker further admitted that he committed the arson because of the religious character of the property and that he painted swastikas and the phrase “White Power” on the mosque in the course of the arson.
One of Baker’s co-defendants, Michael Corey Golden, was sentenced to 171 months for his role in the arson. The other co-defendant, Jonathan Edward Stone, pleaded guilty but has not yet been sentenced.
“The right to worship without fear of this kind of violent interference is among our most fundamental civil rights,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “We will aggressively prosecute anyone who seeks to intimidate or injure any congregation because of what they believe, how they worship, or who they are.”
“This type of crime strikes at the heart of our civil rights and religious freedoms in America. I am very pleased that through local, state and federal cooperation, all defendants responsible for this vile attack have been brought to justice,” said U.S. Attorney Edward M. Yarbrough for the Middle District of Tennessee.
This case was investigated by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Tennessee State Bomb and Arson and the Columbia, Tenn., Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal McDonough from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nashville and Trial Attorney Jonathan Skrmetti from the Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.