Tennessee Man Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison for Burning Islamic Center

WASHINGTON—Senior Judge Robert L. Echols of the Middle District of Tennessee today sentenced Michael Corey Golden to 14 years and three months in prison and three years of supervised released for vandalizing and burning down the Islamic Center of Columbia, Tenn., the Justice Department announced. Golden pleaded guilty on Nov. 3, 2008, to destruction of religious property and to using fire to commit a felony.

Golden, 24, previously admitted to the court that he constructed Molotov cocktail explosive devices, ignited them and used them to destroy the mosque on Feb. 9, 2008. He further admitted that while he burned down the mosque, a co-defendant painted swastikas and the phrase “White Power” on the building’s walls. The other two defendants, Jonathan Edward Stone and Eric Ian Baker, previously pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced in December.

“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.

“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.”

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.