A Mississippi man who made national headlines for tearing down and beheading a Satanic display in the Iowa State Capitol is now being charged with a hate crime.
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But, as KCCI-TV reported, court documents found he was also allegedly guilty of committing an act under Iowa’s hate crime statute that is “in violation of individual rights.”
The outlet reported the legal claim against Cassidy is now a third-degree criminal mischief charge, known as a class D felony; he will be arraigned Feb. 15.
“Evidence shows the defendant made statements to law enforcement and the public indicating he destroyed the property because of the victim’s religion,” Lynn Hicks, a spokesman for the Polk County Attorney’s Office, said in a statement.
The statement on the matter recounts the alleged events that unfolded Dec. 14 and details the cost of the damage.
“Mr. Cassidy dismantled the Baphomet Altar on Dec. 14 at the Iowa State Capitol and destroyed the headpiece, according to an Iowa State Patrol report,” it reads. “Based on information from the victims, the cost to replace or repair the property is between $750 and $1,500. That amount would make the offense third-degree criminal mischief, an aggravated misdemeanor, according to Iowa Code Section 716.5.”
But that charge rose to third-degree criminal mischief in violation of individual rights after Cassidy purportedly said he destroyed the monument “because of the victim’s religion.” A class D felony is punishable by no more than five years behind bars and could come with fines.
As previously reported, Cassidy openly explained his actions against the display.
“We should not tolerate Satan,” he told CBN Digital.
After learning on social media The Satanic Temple had installed a display in the capitol building, Cassidy found himself concerned over its presence.
“When I saw it, I thought, ‘How on earth can Satanic icons be in the capitol?'” he said. “And I thought, ‘You know, it’s some kind of oversight. … some little bureaucracy.'”
Cassidy said he assumed the government would take it down once they realized what it was, considering the symbol was an attempt to “honor Satan.” But, once the display wasn’t removed, he said he got a plane ticket to Iowa and went to see the symbol for himself.
“Whatever emotion you may have felt looking at it online, it’s completely different when you are actually in the capitol,” Cassidy said. “I’m an American. I’ve been in the Navy for my entire adult life. I’ve fought to protect the country, and it wasn’t to protect Satan. We say, ‘So help me God,’ not ‘So help me Satan.'”
He continued, “It became very clear to me that this could not stand. … It was intolerable for it to be there and, so I did what I did.”
Watch Cassidy explain:
After destroying the symbol, Cassidy said he cleaned up some of the debris and went over to security to turn himself in.
“It really boils down to: God is good and deserves praise and Satan is evil and does not deserve [it],” Cassidy said. “The devil is bad and it’s not something that we should promote.”
He also responded to those who charged his actions were merely a public relations stunt.
“I certainly saw this ahead of time,” Cassidy said. “But … I did not have a full plan of what I was going to do … there was no set plan. There was certainly an immense dislike that I had from seeing it online.”
In the end, he said the decision to destroy the Satanic display came along with risks — potential perils he knew the moment he took action.
“When I made that decision in the capitol, I knew that there is going to be potential penalties,” Cassidy said. “I don’t know what the exact … charge was going to be, but I could imagine that … it could lead to jail, could lead to … severe financial hardship.”
He added, “But it was the right thing to do that; we should not tolerate Satan.”
The Satanic Temple released a statement calling the destruction of its holiday display “disheartening,” but said it has “only strengthened” their resolve to “advocate for religious pluralism and freedom of expression.”
“We were thrilled to be part of the Iowa State Capitol’s Holiday display for the first time this year. Despite experiencing the destruction and beheading of our display on Dec. 14, our congregation united to rebuild, embodying the resilience and spirit of our community,” The Satanic Temple Iowa stated. “As our time at the Capitol concludes, we carry with us a sense of accomplishment and a renewed commitment to advocating for religious pluralism and freedom of speech.”
Cassidy, who has raised almost $90,000 for his defense fund on GiveSendGo, will be arraigned Feb. 15.
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