Cloverdale man gets 3 years in prison for hate crime against Carmel synagogue

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced that Nolan Brewer, 21, of Cloverdale, was sentenced in federal court Monday to three years in prison for conspiring to violate the civil rights of Congregation Shaarey Tefilla, a synagogue in Carmel.

Brewer was arrested in August of 2018 for spray painting Nazi symbols on synagogue property and burning the ground with homemade napalm in July of 2018. The case was investigated by Carmel police and the FBI.

"The sentence handed down yesterday sends a clear message that society cannot, and will not, tolerate those who terrorize others for their religious beliefs,” said Minkler in a release from the Department of Justice.

The release showed Brewer had originally intended to break into the synagogue and set fire to the building. However, security cameras and lights around the premises spooked Brewer, and he decided to vandalize the external walls of a garbage shed instead.

In an interview with the FBI, Brewer said that his motivation behind his crime was to generate “news headlines” and “spark more radicalism.”

According to the Department of Justice, multiple coworkers of Brewer's testified that in the months leading up to his crime, Brewer openly identified with Nazism and white supremacy at work. He was said to have worn a swastika necklace and spoke of his adoration for Adolf Hitler. One witness testified that he heard complaints from over a dozen other coworkers who felt uncomfortable with Brewer's comments on the job site.

CBS 4 spoke with Rabbi Benjamin Sendrow of the Congregation Shaarey Tefilla Tuesday. He said his congregation is happy to put this incident behind them, but it has changed some things at this house of worship.

"Yes it did," Rabbi Sendrow said. "Those changes persist. We've tried to toe a very fine line between being open and welcoming and safe and secure. I think we've done an excellent job of that."

Sendrow said he and some other members of the congregation sat in on the federal court proceedings Monday. He said his people are not the only ones hurt by Brewer.

"I think all of us from the congregation there felt a little sadness for his parents, what he put his parents and family through," Sendrow said.

Now that Brewer will spend 36 months in federal prison, the Jewish community hopes he will use that time for positive growth.

"I hope it will be a time of self reflection and learning, a process that he advised the court he has already begun," Sendrow said.

Recently, attacks across the country have put the Jewish community on high alert. In Pittsburgh, a man shot and killed eleven people in a synagogue in October. Then, one person was killed and three others were injured during a shooting at a synagogue near San Diego in April.

"We have to be more careful," Sendrow said. "We're still, I think, a very warm and welcoming congregation. But, we are also not burying our heads in the sand and saying it can't happen here. It happened here on a smaller scale."

Sendrow said he is very grateful the crimes that happened at his synagogue resulted in no physical injuries or death.

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