Aryan Alliance members accused in Tennessee mosque attack
Three men, all believed to be members of the white supremacist group Aryan Alliance, face federal charges in connection with the pre-dawn arson of a Tennessee mosque.
Eric Ian Baker, Jonathan Edward Stone, and Michael Corey Golden were indicted by a federal grand jury in Nashville on March 26. The five-count indictment charges the men with conspiracy to violate civil rights, destroying a house of worship, possession of a destructive device, use of fire to destroy a building and use of fire to commit a felony, according to the Justice Department.
"Today begins a court process to hold the individuals accountable for an act which destroyed religious property and shocked a community," James Cavanaugh, a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said in a statement the day federal charges were filed.
Federal officials allege that on Feb. 9, the 32-year-old Baker spray-painted three swastikas onto the walls of the mosque, along with the messages, "We run the world" and "White Power." Golden, 23, and Stone, 19, the officials say, hurled a brick through a window and tossed two Molotov cocktails on the floor. Earlier that morning, Baker had driven Golden and Stone to a convenience store, where they are accused of making the Molotov cocktails using gasoline, rags and empty beer bottles.
No one was injured in the blaze, though Stone almost set himself on fire.
That same day, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urged law enforcement officials to investigate the fire as a hate crime and asked the FBI to get involved. CAIR, a Washington D.C.-based civil liberties group that works to promote understanding of Islam, also suggested that Muslims review a community safety kit aimed at protecting them from anti-Muslim attacks.
Federal officials allege that the men had planned for about a week to burn down the Islamic Center in Columbia, a small city about 45 miles from Nashville. Baker told them "what goes on in that building is illegal according to the Bible."
At least two of the three men are followers of Christian Identity, a virulently racist and anti-Semitic perversion of Christianity that's often espoused by hate groups. Stone told officials that his role in the fire got him "two stripes" from Baker, his Christian Identity sponsor. He said Christian Identity members earn stripes "for committing acts of violence against enemies," according to the affidavit.
If convicted, the men could receive a jail sentence of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $250,000.