#09-1011: Last Defendant in Tennessee Islamic Center Burning Pleads Guilty (2009-09-22)
WASHINGTON – Eric Ian Baker pleaded guilty today in federal court in
Nashville, Tenn., for his role in burning and vandalizing the Islamic Center of
Columbia, Tenn., on Feb. 9, 2008. Baker was charged with violating civil rights
that protect religious property and for using fire in the commission of a
felony. Two other defendants, Michael Corey Golden and Jonathan Edward Stone,
had previously pleaded guilty in November 2008 for their roles in the arson.
During the plea hearing, Baker admitted that he, Golden and Stone
assembled Molotov cocktail incendiary devices, broke into the Islamic Center,
ignited the devices and used them to completely destroy the mosque. He admitted
to painting swastikas and the phrase "White Power" on the mosque in the course
of the arson and that they acted because of the religious character of the
"The law protects the right of all Americans to worship where and how
they choose without fear of violence or intimidation," said Loretta King, Acting
Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Civil Rights
Division will vigorously prosecute those who, through acts of terror, attempt to
interfere with that right."
"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.
"Every Muslim who saw the news photos with the Swastika painted on
the burned out Islamic center was victimized by this attack. Today, they can
clearly see that American law enforcement stands strongly with them to guarantee
their freedoms to worship and assemble," said ATF Nashville Field Division
Special Agent in Charge James M. Cavanaugh.
"The FBI is committed to protecting the civil rights of all people
through the enforcement of federal civil rights statutes," said FBI Memphis
Division Special Agent in Charge My Harrison. "The destruction of any place of
worship will not be ignored and the FBI will make every effort to bring those
who commit such heinous acts to justice."
A date for Baker’s sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later
time. Stone and Golden are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 23, 2009. All three
defendants face prison sentences of up to 30 years for damaging religious
property and for using fire and an explosive device to commit a federal felony
The case was investigated by the Columbia, Tenn., Police Department
and special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,
Tennessee State Bomb and Arson and the FBI.