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Maryland Man Convicted for Desecrating Synagogue

A 23-year-old man was convicted yesterday of drawing anti-Semitic symbols on a Silver Spring synagogue in what the Jewish Advocacy Center in Washington called one of the few successful prosecutions in the United States for acts of anti-Semitic vandalism.

A jury deliberated for less than two hours in Montgomery County Circuit Court before returning a guilty verdict against Michael David Remer on charges of destruction of property. Irving Shapell, president of the Jewish Advocacy Center, also said that the verdict would serve notice that the Jewish community would “fight back” against such attacks. Andrew Sonner, the Maryland State’s Attorney, said it was the first prosecution and conviction he could remember for such a crime in the county circuit court system.

Rabbi Martin Halpem, spiritual leader of the vandalized Shaare Tefila synagogue, said the incident and the conviction had helghtened the awareness of all residents of the community, non-Jewish and Jewish, that “if desecration happens to a synagogue today, it could happen to a church tomorrow and to a mosque the next day.”

Judge Rosalyn Bell, who presided at the trial, set bond of $50,000 for Remer and scheduled sentencing for August 11.

One of Remer’s companions on the night of the incident last November I testified he watched Remer, who now lives in Ellicott City, Md., spray-paint “a big swastika, ” a cross, a skull and crossbones and the words “Ku Klux Klan” on the back of the synagogue.

Remer, testifying in his own defense, denied any painting on the synagogue, declaring “I was drunk” and that he laughed at his companions whom he said he watched painting the symbols and slogans on the synagogue. Remer’s companions also have been charged and their cases are pending.

Outside the courtroom, Remer told reporters he was not anti-Semitic. He also said that, while he was not a Jew, he had grown up in a home where his stepfather and stepbrothers were Jewish.

FACES 3-YEAR PRISON TERM

Prosecutor Rick Jordan said Remer faced a sentence of up to three years in prison and fines of up to $2,500 on the property destruction verdict. Remer was also convicted of six other criminal charges stemming from similar acts of vandalism the same night.

Robert Jacques, Remer’s defense attorney, told jurors that the desecration of the synagogue was “so offensive and so heinous that you don’t have to be Jewish to be outraged by them,” but he insisted Remer had not drawn the smearings.

The vandalism attracted wide attention because synagogue officials decided to leave the daubings untouched for several days to give the community “a chance to express community outrage.” Marshall Levin, the synagogue executive director, said many residents helped clean up the wall and tips from residents led to the arrests of Remer and five companions.

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