Salt Lake City, UT–A 21 year-old Utah man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Wednesday to a federal civil rights crime relating to a bias-motivated weapons discharge aimed at a local synagogue and to two unlawful gun possession charges.
During the plea proceedings, Macon Openshaw admitted that late at night on a date in 2012, he fired three rounds from a Walther .22 caliber handgun at the Congregation Kol Ami synagogue in Salt Lake City because of its religious character, hitting the unoccupied structure’s second floor window casing and the exterior wall of the synagogue. Openshaw also admitted to possessing a handgun with a destroyed serial number, which was the same handgun he used to shoot the synagogue. He also admitted to possessing several firearms and ammunition while he was subject to a protective order.
“Religiously-motivated violence tears at the fabric of our diverse society,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “Today, and in the future, the department stands vigilant to confront and eradicate violence based on a person’s religion, and we will continue to vigorously prosecute those who commit crimes born of hate.”
“Every citizen living in Utah has a right to be free from intimidation and threatening conduct,” said U.S. Attorney David Barlow. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah has a strong history of prosecuting those who violate the civil rights of others.”
Openshaw entered into a plea agreement whereby he would be sentenced to 60 months incarceration. As part of his plea agreement, Openshaw agreed to pay restitution to the synagogue to repair the damage caused by his actions.
Openshaw is scheduled to be sentenced on July 15.