Man Convicted of Vandalizing an Illinois Jewish Cemetery
A Polish immigrant currently living in Illinois was found guilty on Friday of vandalizing a Jewish cemetery near Norridge, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Mariusz Wdziekonski, 25, of Norridge, was found guilty of felony vandalism and unlawful acts on cemetery grounds. The cemetery in question is the Westlawn Cemetery, which was vandalized in January of 2008. Swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans were spray-painted on about 57 tombstones in the cemetery, causing at least $100,000 in damage.
Following his arrest authorities said Wdziekonski was a member of the National Socialist Movement, after finding photographs of him dressed as a German storm trooper. They said Wdziekonski was “immersed” with Nazi history and culture and that he was “proud of it.”
Wdziekonski, however, testified during his trial that he was not a neo-Nazi but simply a collector of Nazi memorabilia.
In a statement released on Friday, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) praised the conviction. Lonnie Nasatir, ADL Chicago Regional Director, said: “The Sheriff's Department deserves high praise for its handling of this deplorable anti-Semitic incident which is a hate crime against the entire community. The Sheriff's Office took the graffiti seriously from the moment it was discovered and we are grateful to Sheriff Tom Dart for his leadership in investigating this incident effectively and professionally. We also applaud the Cook County State's Attorney's Office for prosecuting this offender to the fullest extent of the law.”
Prosecutors said Wdziekonski, who has been held on $250,000 bail since his arrest in February of 2008 and will be sentenced on December 17, could face anywhere from probation to seven years in prison.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that since Wdziekonski has been jailed for almost three years, he is unlikely to serve much more time but as he is not a U.S. citizen, a conviction could mean his return to Poland.