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Oregon Judge Denies Bail to Neo-Nazi over Synagogue Attack

A man accused of terrorizing the Jewish community at Temple Beth Israel in Eugene with repeated white supremacist and antisemitic graffiti tags was ordered Monday to remain in custody as a danger to the community.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gavin W. Bruce said Adam Edward Braun’s actions escalated over five months, first tagging his moniker “ANTBOI” and white supremacist symbols on the synagogue’s outer walls in August before showing up in the middle of the night in mid-January outside the temple’s preschool armed with a hammer about to break the glass doors.

Braun didn’t bring the hammer down over his head when he noticed a security camera outside, but instead ranted into the camera and scrawled “White Power” on one of the temple’s exterior walls, Bruce said.

“When someone targets a place of worship, it heightens the dangerousness of what one might be willing to do,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Mustafa T. Kasubhai ruled at the end of a 90-minute detention hearing in federal court in Eugene.

“There’s nothing benign about this notion of white supremacy that has been communicated, not just in writing in some abstract space, but on a synagogue’s walls.”

Kasubhai said he viewed surveillance video of Braun that showed a man with extreme anger armed with a hammer and shouting profanity-laced messages into a security camera, while targeting a Jewish synagogue at a time when antisemitism has risen in the United States and around the world.

The evidence suggests Braun intended to “strike fear” in the Jewish community, Kasubhai said.

“There is a vulnerability that is manifested in antisemitism that cannot just simply be overlooked or objectified or distanced or sterilized. It’s very real,” he said.

Bruce cited the “trove” of Nazi and Ku Klux Klan memorabilia and knives investigators found in Braun’s home, including framed photos of Adolf Hitler and a black Ku Klux Klan robe worn by ranking officers who acted as security at KKK events, as well Braun’s repeated antisemitic statements to investigators.

Though Braun’s actions caused only property damage, the Temple Beth Israel community fears “what Mr. Braun might do next,” Bruce wrote in a detention memo. He said Braun “targeted and terrorized” the Temple Beth Israel community.

Braun, 34, was first arrested Jan. 31 and charged in state court with four counts of a second-degree bias crime and released from custody.

But Bruce said Braun ignored conditions to have no contact with members of the synagogue and “continued to interact with and harass” congregants online.

Under the Facebook name “Ace Braun,” Braun posted an emoji of a man’s face with a small dark mustache in response to a post about his arrest, writing, “Now can any of you guys guess what this emoji is supposed to represent,” Bruce told the court.

While the First Amendment allows Braun to espouse racist and antisemitic views,it doesn’t protect him from being charged with bias crimes, Bruce argued.

The FBI arrested Braun last week on a federal hate crime charge, accusing him of intentionally defacing a synagogue because it is a place of religious worship for Jewish people.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Irina Hughes urged the judge to release Braun pending trial with a GPS ankle monitor, home detention and a mental health evaluation and potentially treatment.

She said Braun is facing a federal misdemeanor charge that alleges “the damaging” of a wall but no injury to any person.

“He didn’t even break anything when he went there,” she said.

Hughes argued Braun’s alleged comments on Facebook about his arrest are protected by the First Amendment and weren’t intimidating. It’s a stretch, she said, for the prosecutor to conclude that an emoji depicting a man’s face with a short mustache resembled Hitler, she said.

“I’m not saying what he wrote is not offensive. But this is not the question,” Hughes said. “The question is whether there is a proof by clear and convincing evidence that his release will pose a serious risk that he will obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice, injure or intimidate a prospective witness. … I just don’t think that there’s any proof that this will happen.”

Hughes called a friend of Braun’s to testify in support of his release who said Braun is interested in a restorative justice outcome to his state case that would allow for mediation with key members of the Temple Beth Israel congregation. The state case is pending.

But the judge found no conditions could assure Braun wouldn’t pose a danger to the community.

“The safety of the community is not just ensuring the physical safety of the individuals and the congregants and the members of the Jewish community, but also to ensure the safety of the community as it relates to the community’s sense of security to be free from harm and not harassed,” Kasubhai said.

Court records allege Braun first tagged the synagogue’s walls on Aug. 23 and Sept. 11 with white power and antisemitic symbols. Then sometime between the evening of Oct. 6 and the morning of Oct. 7, coinciding with the Hamas attack on Israel, he painted his nickname “ANTBOI,” over one of the earlier white supremacist scrawls still on the synagogue, according to the prosecutor.

Braun was homeless before he arrived in Eugene about five years ago, having previously lived in Wyoming and California, according to his lawyer and his friend who testified. He has no family in Oregon and has obtained welding work through a temp agency, though he lost two jobs since his January and March arrests, his lawyer said.

He also has non-extraditable arrest warrants on charges of attempting to elude police, and drug and weapons allegations pending in Wyoming. He was convicted in California of vandalism and obstructing an officer. He is currently in diversion for driving while intoxicated in Lane County, according to the prosecution.

https://www.oregonlive.com/crime/2024/03/oregon-man-accused-of-defacing-synagogue-too-dangerous-to-release-judge-rules.html?outputType=amp