A 24-year-old man who firebombed a mosque in Columbia, Tenn., last year was sentenced yesterday to a little more than 14 years in federal prison on charges of destruction of religious property and use of fire to commit a felony.
The defendant, Michael C. Golden, pleaded guilty earlier this month before Senior Judge Robert Echols of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.
Golden, represented by Michael Flanagan, a solo practitioner in Nashville who was court-appointed, admitted he constructed Molotov cocktails and used them to destroy the Islamic Center of Columbia in February 2008. Flanagan said in an interview that Golden was a follower, not a leader in the criminal activity.
A co-defendant painted swastikas and the phrase “White Power” on the building, the Justice Department said. Two co-defendants have pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced next month.
“The right to worship without fear of this kind of violent interference is among our most fundamental civil rights,” Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement on Nov. 23. “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.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal McDonough from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nashville and Jonathan Skrmetti, a Civil Rights Division trial attorney, prosecuted the case.