A Maryland teenager who spray-painted swastikas on a local synagogue was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.
Sebastian Espinoza-Carranza, 18, could have been sentenced on Tuesday to nine years in prison for his part in the April incident at Shaare Torah Congregation in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The high school senior received a reduced sentence because he met with Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal of Shaare Torah, toured the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and wrote a two-page paper about when he had learned.
“This was an absolutely horrific crime,” said Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Sherri Koch. “The community itself is still healing.” She said it was “very much to the synagogue’s credit” that its leadership preferred that Espinoza-Carranza be educated rather than punished.
Blumenthal addressed the court, explaining that he and synagogue president Connie Liss spoke with Espinoza-Carranza about teshuvah, or repentance, and the importance of overcoming one’s mistakes. The young man “quite willingly” apologized and promised he would never do it again, the rabbi said.
He also helped repaint the damage he had done to the synagogue, Blumenthal said.
Espinoza-Carranza read his essay during the 30-minute sentencing hearing, saying that at various times during his guided visit to the Holocaust museum he was shocked and disgusted. He told the court he now understands the significance of the swastika and that what he learned “will stay with me for a lifetime.”
When asked by Rupp why he painted swastikas on the synagogue, Espinoza-Carranza replied: “We thought we were going to be cool. We wanted to be bad-ass.” The teenager was referring to three friends who also vandalized the synagogue. Because the others were under the age of 18, their fate was decided in the juvenile justice system; their names and punishments were not made public.
Immediately following the sentencing, Blumenthal said he was “satisfied. Our biggest concern now is for the defendant to move on with his life,” including finishing high school.