A 23-year-old man who grew up in the Wheaton-Silver Spring area went on trial yesterday in Montgomery County Circuit Court on charges of destroying property for allegedly painting anti-Semitic symbols and slogans on the Shaare Tefila Synagogue last November.
Prosecutor Rick Jordan opened his case against Michael David Remer by telling a jury, "It is hatred and utter disregard for the feelings and property of others that brings us here today."
Jordan accused Remer of being "at the forefront of a series of criminal acts" that included desecration of the Silver Spring synagogue with "expressions of racial and religious hatred" on the night of Nov. 1, 1982.
The incident was highly publicized after the Shaare Tefila congregation decided to leave the symbols and slogans on the walls for several days to give the community "a chance to express community outrage," according to Marshall Levin, the synagogue's executive director. Scores of residents helped with the cleanup a few days later.
Remer's attorney, Robert Jacques, asked the jurors in his opening statement yesterday not to look at "what was done . . . who was offended . . . and how horrible it was." He asked them to focus on two issues: did the defendant commit the various acts and did he agree voluntarily to participate in any criminal acts.
Remer also is charged in an incident in which graffiti were painted on the back of a Drug Fair store at the White Oak Shopping Center and with taking part in the theft of a van from a hardware store nearby.
Remer and five others were arrested in connection with the series of incidents last November. One of the men, William Randall Harris, 19, of Silver Spring, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to destroy property at the synagogue, according to Jordan, and yesterday testified against Remer.
Yesterday, Harris testified he watched Remer paint "a big Nazi swastika," a cross, a skull and crossbones and the words Ku Klux Klan on the back of the synagogue.
Harris also testified Remer painted the wall of the Drug Fair and one member of the group then suggested going to the synagogue. He testified the group was scared away from the front of the synagogue when a passing car shined its light on them, but he and Remer later returned.