Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Nolan Brewer: Nazi sympathiser who painted swastikas on synagogue 'radicalised by Fox News and Ben Shapiro', claims lawyer

Judge sentences man to three years in prison for vandalising synagogue

Katie Mettler
Tuesday 28 May 2019 10:12 BST
Nolan Brewer pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate civil rights after painting swastikas and iron crosses on the synagogue
Nolan Brewer pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate civil rights after painting swastikas and iron crosses on the synagogue (AP)

After Nolan Brewer pleaded guilty to charges in connection with painting swastikas on an Indiana synagogue and setting the yard ablaze, his attorney argued in court documents that the 21-year-old man did not deserve prison time.

He had been influenced heavily by his wife, Kyomi Brewer, his attorney wrote in a sentencing memo filed last week, and putting Nolan Brewer in prison would further stoke the prejudiced beliefs that had inspired the couple to commit those acts.

Prisons are hotbeds for brainwashing by white supremacists, Nolan Brewer's lawyer, Samuel Ansell, wrote in a sentencing memo filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

Probation and significant community service were more appropriate punishments, Mr Ansell wrote.

But a federal judge sentenced Nolan Brewer to three years in prison for conspiring to violate the civil rights of Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel, Indiana, a crime to which Nolan Brewer pleaded guilty.

Brewer's case has brought national attention since the ruling, not because of discourse over the length of his sentence - but because of a name Mr Ansell mentioned in his sentencing memo: conservative commentator and Daily Wire editor in chief Ben Shapiro.

Mr Ansell argued that Brewer's radicalisation was heavily influenced by what his wife, who was 17 at the time of the alleged crime, had been reading online.

"According to Nolan, she began with right-wing yet mainstream views such as those presented on Fox News," read Mr Ansell's sentencing memo. "She then moved on to writings by Ben Shapiro and articles on Breitbart News which bridged the gap to the notorious white supremacist and antisemitic propaganda site Stormfront."

Nolan Brewer "bought into the propaganda", Mr Ansell wrote.

Mr Shapiro and other conservative commentators have defended Mr Shapiro's work, arguing that his identity as an Orthodox Jew made him an unlikely source for the Brewers' antisemitic ideals and actions.

"Yes, if there's one thing I'm known for - as one of the most prominent Orthodox Jews, targets of the alt-right, and critics of the alt-right in America - it's directing Nazis to attack synagogues," Mr Shapiro wrote in a tweet on Sunday. "What garbage."

Mr Shapiro, a Harvard University law school graduate with millions of social media followers, is a leading conservative voice among millennials.

He has criticised Donald Trump, but he upholds many of the same views as the conservatives who support the president do - including outlawing abortion, repealing the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and cutting taxes for the wealthy.

He previously worked for Breitbart News - another influential website cited by Brewer as a source for his and his wife's radicalisation.

This case is not the first in which Mr Shapiro's name has been cited by those accused of hate-motivated crimes.

In the month before Alexandre Bissonnette attacked a Quebec City mosque in 2017, killing six people and injuring 19, he visited Mr Shapiro's Twitter feed 93 times, according to evidence presented at Bissonnette's sentencing hearing.

Mr Shapiro, in an interview with Fox News last year, rejected the insinuated connection, saying: "Now I have 1.4 million Twitter followers so I guess the idea from the left is that if somebody sees enough of my tweets they're inevitably going to become a terrorist.

"Weird that I don't have a spate of enormous terrorism across the country thanks to my Twitter followers."

Mr Shapiro has previously claimed that the majority of Muslims are radicalised, a false assertion citing maths that was later debunked by PunditFact, a fact-checking publication run by Poynter.

Ben Shapiro accuses Andrew Neil of being 'on the left'

Before they vandalised the synagogue in the Indianapolis suburb, the Brewers had been radicalising, reading white supremacist propaganda from the internet and discussing its meaning, prosecutors said.

Kyomi Brewer had radicalised first. She participated in chat forums and would share her findings with her husband when he got home from work, prosecutors said.

At work, Nolan Brewer was not shy about his views, prosecutors said. Co-workers testified that he tried to recruit them into Nazi thinking and that he bragged about what he and his wife had done at the synagogue.

In late July, the couple spray-painted red-and-black Nazi flags and two iron crosses on the synagogue property, then set the ground ablaze, court documents state.

They had previously planned to set the synagogue itself on fire with "Drano bombs", which are "overpressure explosive devices", but they cancelled their plan in the moment, prosecutors said.

The federal judge also ordered Nolan Brewer to pay the synagogue $700 (£551) in damages.

Kyomi Brewer's attorney, Kevin Karimi, told the IndyStar that although she was a minor at the time of the vandalism, she was charged as an adult in Hamilton County.

She pleaded guilty to arson and was sentenced to probation without jail time, reported the IndyStar.

The Washington Post

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in