Vandal of Olney synagogue sentenced to jail time, rehabilitation
Parents of Ian Baron apologize B'nai Shalom congregation for their son's troubles
The homeless man who defaced an Olney synagogue last summer will serve a few more months in jail and undergo treatment for substance abuse.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Thomas L. Craven on Friday sentenced 23-year-old Ian Jacob Baron to three years in prison, with all but 18 months suspended, for malicious destruction of property worth over $500 and ordered Baron to pay $24,000 in restitution to B'nai Shalom of Olney for vandalizing the synagogue with anti-Semitic epithets in July.
Craven also sentenced Baron to three years in jail with all time suspended for one count of race/religious property damage and 60 days in jail with all time suspended for each of three additional counts of malicious destruction of property for vandalizing two nearby residences with graffiti.
In addition, Baron was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to spend a minimum of one year in substance abuse treatment at the Jewish Recovery Houses in Pikesville upon release from jail.
"Our major goal now is to help you be a law-abiding citizen when you get out," Craven said during the sentencing hearing. "I don't think it's beneficial to you or anyone to lock someone up for a long time."
Baron's attorney, public defender Alan C. Drew, estimated his client could spend two to three months in jail before his release when factoring in the suspended jail time and credit Baron received for the time he has spent in jail since August.
"I think it was a good sentence," Drew said after the sentencing.
In court, Drew asked Craven to impose a suspended jail sentence and allow Baron to enter a program at Jewish Recovery Houses, a drug and alcohol treatment center.
Prosecutors requested Baron be sentenced to jail time, specifically at the Patuxent Institution, a treatment-oriented state correctional facility in Jessup.
Following the sentencing, Assistant State's Attorneys Jeffrey Wennar and Sherri D. Koch said they were satisfied with the judge's decision.
Before Craven handed down his sentence, Baron took time to apologize to the B'nai Shalom congregation and Rabbi Ari Sunshine directly and for a letter he wrote from jail to a woman identified as Francesca, riddled with anti-Semitic thoughts.
"If I stay in jail I'm not coming back. I'm running out of chances." he said. "As far as the letters go, I'm impulsive. I run my mouth."
Members of Baron's family, including his 16-year-old brother Henry, testified at the sentencing, asking Craven for leniency and describing Baron's troubles.
Steven Baron, Ian Baron's father, testified that his son recognized his dependency issues and was waiting for a bed to become available at the Avery Road Treatment Center in Rockville at the time of the vandalisms. He apologized to the community affected by the vandalism and to his son directly "for not doing more."
Baron's mother, Marla Baron, spoke of her son's problems with alcohol and drug abuse, and alluded to the time when Baron came home drunk and showed off an "SS" lightning bolt tattoo, only to come home two days later asking how to have it removed.
"My son's an alcoholic. I'm stating it as a fact, not an excuse for his behavior," she said.
Both of Ian Baron's parents described their son's struggle with his cultural identity and depression, revealing that Baron began seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist for help when he was in the seventh grade.
Baron, who was adopted by his family from Honduras as an infant, had difficulty understanding his Jewish and Hispanic backgrounds, his mother said.
Rabbi Reuben Landman is the religious head at Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim in Silver Spring where the Baron family attends services, and said he has known Baron since he was 12 and never viewed him as a Nazi sympathizer or racist.
"I don't see a Neo-Nazi there. I see a very troubled kid," said Landman, a Holocaust survivor.
While incarcerated at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Clarksburg, Baron has met with Rabbi Daniel Sikowitz on 10 occasions, during which Baron talked about his addictions, not fitting in and anger at his father, the rabbi said. Sikowitz said Baron prayed regularly and sought drug and alcohol treatment in jail.
B'nai Shalom President Debbie Kovalsky read a prepared victim impact statement on behalf of the synagogue's congregation to the court.
"He purposefully chose B'nai Shalom as his canvas to express his hate," Kovalsky said in court. "Do we believe Ian Baron needs help? Absolutely."
She added that "only time will tell if it will work."
Following the hearing, Steven Baron said he could not express his thoughts on the judge's sentence, but is optimistic his son can finally overcome the struggles that have plagued him for years.
"He's on his way to being a kid again," he said.