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Feds: Michigan man painted swastikas on synagogue in white supremacist plot

Federal authorities charged Nathan Weeden, 23, of Houghton with a civil rights crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison on claims he spray-painted swastikas on the Temple Jacob Synagogue in Houghton in 2019. (Shutterstock)
  • Feds announce charges against Nathan Weeden of Houghton
  • Weeden accused of painting swastikas on a local synagogue
  • He and conspirators called attack ‘Operation Kristallnacht’ after infamous Nazi pogrom against Jews, feds allege

LANSING — A Houghton man painted swastikas and other symbols on a local synagogue in 2019 as part of a multi-state attack coordinated by a national white supremacist group, federal authorities said Thursday in announcing new criminal charges. 

Nathan Weeden, 23, is accused of a civil rights crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and a second count of damaging a religious property — The Temple Jacob Synagogue — that is punishable by up to one year in prison. Convictions could also lead to fines.


The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan alleges Weeden was a member of The Base, a national neo-Nazi group that later operated a cell in Bad Axe. Their members have also faced various criminal charges. 


Weeden allegedly defaced the Houghton synagogue after encrypted chat communications with fellow members of The Base, including Richard Tobin of New Jersey and Yousef Barasneh of Wisconsin. 

Barasneh in 2020 pleaded guilty to defacing a Wisconsin synagogue on the same day as the Houghton attack, and Tobin in 2021 was sentenced to one year in prison for helping coordinate the crimes in both states. 

It's not immediately clear why it took authorities four years to charge Weeden, who is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty. 

Authorities say the swastikas and other white supremacist imagery that Weeden and Barasneh spray-painted on the synagogues were part of what Tobin had dubbed "Operation Kristallnacht," a reference to a Nazi night of terror against Jews that was a prelude to the Holocaust.

Encrypted chat logs quoted in a federal indictment show Tobin had directed a coordinated vandalism campaign for a specific week in September 2019 that would focus on "broad anti-white elements" including "jew businesses” and cars they believed were owned by Black people.

"Leave the symbol of our revolution wherever you go, and burn whatever you please," Tobin said in one chat. 

Authorities allege Weeden spray-painted swastikas and other symbols associated with The Base on the Temple Jacob synagogue on Sept. 1, 2019. 

Shortly after doing so, he bragged to colleagues in an encrypted chat and celebrated local news coverage, according to the indictment:  "I did! Went good! Got articles written!!" 

Temple Jacob is a Reform synagogue that was built in 1912 to serve migrants who moved to the western Upper Peninsula for the mining boom, according to the Detroit Jewish News. A year after it opened, miners went on strike and the boom began to end, but the temple persevered and is believed to be Michigan’s second-oldest synagogue, according to the Jewish News.


A grand jury issued the two-count indictment against Weeden on Tuesday, according to a Thursday announcement by U.S. Attorney Mark Totten's office. 

“We are fully prepared to make our case against Mr. Weeden,”  Totten said in a statement.  

“No one should be the target of hate because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or any other status... With the rise of antisemitism across the United States and here in Michigan, everyone must do their part to stand united against hate.”

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