published Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Jackson man who defaced Torah sentenced to 4 years

JACKSON, Tenn. — A Jackson man who pleaded guilty to defacing a Torah and religious prayer books at a Jackson hotel has been sentenced to four years in prison.

The Jackson Sun reports Madison County Circuit Court Judge Roy Morgan Jr. sentenced 25-year-old Justin Shawn Baker on Monday to the maximum amount for the charges he faced.

"I think that's just so very obvious from what's been presented today as to why these individuals were victimized in this case," Morgan said in court. "It's quite clear that for thousands of years people have been attacked around the world and persecuted for their religious beliefs, whatever that belief is, and the nature of the crime here is clearly a direct, intentional attack on what's guaranteed as a freedom in this country, freedom of religion."

Students and faculty at the Margolin Hebrew Academy in Memphis were staying at the Doubletree Hotel in Jackson on Jan. 12 and had used a meeting room to conduct a Sabbath worship. They left the items in the room overnight with plans to resume worship the next morning.

They arrived to find the items defaced.

Baker was working at the hotel at the time as a security guard.

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