GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. — U.S. Attorney Mark Totten for the Western District of Michigan Thursday announced the indictment of Nathan Weeden, 23, of Houghton, Michigan for conspiring with others and allegedly defacing Temple Jacob – a Jewish synagogue in Hancock, Michigan – with swastikas and symbols associated with The Base, a multi-state, white supremacist group.
“We are fully prepared to make our case against Mr. Weeden,” said U.S. Attorney Mark Totten. “No one should be the target of hate because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or any other status. When hateful words become hateful acts, in violation of federal civil rights laws, my office will use every tool we have to protect the public and ensure accountability. With the rise of antisemitism across the United States and here in Michigan, everyone must do their part to stand united against hate.”
In the attached indictment issued against Weeden, along with other public documents filed in cases against alleged co-conspirators Richard Tobin of New Jersey (see here and here) and Yousef Barasneh of Wisconsin (see here and here), support the following allegations.
According to the indictment, in September 2019, Weeden, Tobin, and Barasneh – all members of The Base, a multi-state, white supremacist organization – allegedly used an encrypted messaging platform to discuss vandalizing property associated with African Americans and Jewish Americans. Weeden and his co-conspirators dubbed their plan, “Operation Kristallnacht,” which in German means “Night of Broken Glass” and is in reference to the events that took place on November 9th and 10th of 1938 in which Nazis murdered Jewish people and burned and destroyed their homes, synagogues, schools, and places of business. The indictment alleges that Weeden carried out this plan on September 21, 2019, when he spray-painted swastikas and symbols associated with The Base on the outside walls of Temple Jacob.
Weeden is charged with two counts. The first count is for Conspiracy Against Rights under 18 U.S.C. § 241, a civil rights statute that makes it a crime to conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in the exercise of their rights. The maximum penalty under this statute is 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. The second count is for Damage to Religious Property under 18 U.S.C. § 247, also a civil rights statute that makes it a crime to intentionally deface, damage, or destroy religious property because of the race or ethnic characteristics of individuals associated with that religious property. The maximum penalty under this statute is 1 year imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.
“The FBI will not tolerate crimes motivated by hate, which are meant to intimidate and isolate the targeted groups,” said James A. Tarasca, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “People of all faiths deserve to feel safe in their communities and this office, in close collaboration with our law enforcement partners, will aggressively pursue these types of cases to ensure there are consequences for crimes like those alleged in this indictment.”
The grand jury issued its two-count indictment against Nathan Weeden on June 27, 2023. The indictment was unsealed on June 29, 2023, after the defendant was arrested by the FBI. He remains in custody at this time. The court will schedule Weeden’s arraignment, detention hearing, and trial at a later date.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nils Kessler and Trial Attorney Eric Peffley of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section. It is being investigated by the FBI with assistance from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Hancock Police Department.
The charges in an indictment are merely accusations, and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.