Prisons are hotbeds for brainwashing by white supremacists, Nolan Brewer’s lawyer, Samuel Ansell, wrote in a sentencing memo filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Probation and significant community service were more appropriate punishments, 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, Ind., a crime to which Brewer pleaded guilty.
Brewer’s case has found its way to the national spotlight since the ruling not because of discourse over the length of his sentence — but because of a name Ansell mentioned in his sentencing memo: conservative commentator and Daily Wire editor in chief Ben Shapiro.
Ansell argued that Brewer’s radicalization was heavily influenced by what his wife, who was 17 at the time of the crime, had been reading online. “According to Nolan, she began with rightwing yet mainstream views such as those presented on Fox News,” Ansell’s sentencing memo said. “She then moved on to writings by Ben Shapiro and articles on Breitbart News which bridged the gap to the notorious white supremacist and anti-Semitic propaganda site Stormfront.”
Nolan Brewer “bought into the propaganda,” Ansell wrote.
Shapiro and other conservative commentators have taken to social media to defend Shapiro’s work, arguing that his identity as an Orthodox Jew made him an unlikely source for the Brewers’ anti-Semitic 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,” Shapiro wrote in a tweet Sunday. “What garbage.”
Shapiro is a leading conservative voice among millennials, a Harvard Law graduate with millions of social media followers. He has criticized President Trump but upholds many of the same views as the conservatives who support the president do — including outlawing abortion, repealing the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes for the wealthy. He previously worked for Breitbart News.
This case is not the first time that 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 Shapiro’s Twitter feed 93 times, according to evidence presented at Bissonnette’s sentencing hearing.
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.”
Shapiro has previously claimed that the majority of Muslims are radicalized, a false assertion citing math that was later debunked by PunditFact, a fact-checking publication run by Poynter.
Before they vandalized the synagogue in Carmel, a suburb of Indianapolis, the Brewers had been slowly radicalizing, reading white supremacist propaganda from the Internet and discussing its meaning, prosecutors said. Kiyomi Brewer had radicalized 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, either, 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 canceled their plan in the moment, prosecutors said.
The federal judge also ordered Nolan Brewer to pay the synagogue $700 in damages.
Kiyomi Brewer’s attorney, Kevin Karimi, told the IndyStar that although she was a minor at the time of the incident, she was charged as an adult. She pleaded guilty to arson and was sentenced to probation without jail time, the IndyStar reported.