Mental health screening ordered for synagogue vandal

| August 6, 2010

A 22-year-old Montgomery County man accused of desecrating an Olney synagogue will undergo a mental health evaluation while jailed on the charges.

The suspect, Ian Jacob Baron, appeared for his first court proceeding in the case Thursday via a video feed from the county jail, as is standard procedure for bond hearings in Montgomery.

Baron was arrested this week on three charges in connection with as much as $20,000 in spray paint damage outside the B'nai Shalom Synagogue last month.

In court, there was general consensus that the mental health evaluation was a good idea. Samantha Sandler, a public defender who represented Baron, said the defendant agreed to have what is termed a competency evaluation.

Prosecutors didn't object to the request for the mental health screening. Prosecutors also said Baron should receive alcohol abuse treatment, if it is determined to be needed.

Baron earlier had described himself to police as a neo-Nazi who is active in that movement, according to an arrest affidavit filed in court. He has spent time in this shack, according to police sources.

In describing the oddness of the case, police have noted that Baron's parents, who adopted him, are Jewish. They live near the synagogue. They were in court Thursday, but didn't speak. They declined to be interviewed after the hearing.

Baron's parents appear to have played an active role in raising him. They recently told prosecutors they didn't want to post his bond at this point, prosecutors said in court.

By taking that position, the parents lent support to Baron being locked up for at least another week — and thus unable to go back to sleeping in a friend's vehicle, as he earlier told police he'd been doing.

Assistant State's Attorney Sherri Koch, a prosecutor, said in court that Baron is a risk to flee if released.

"The state's position is that he is homeless, that he is a flight risk," she said. "From our conversations with the parents, it's the state's position that it's probably not in his best interest or the family's best interest that he return to the home."

District Judge Judge Barry A. Hamilton ordered Baron held without bond pending the evaluation. He scheduled a bond hearing for next Thursday, at which point conditions could be changed to allow Baron's release ahead of his scheduled Sept. 14 trial date.

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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security