A former Mississippi political candidate accused of vandalizing the Satanic Temple’s Baphomet display in the Iowa Statehouse has been charged with committing a hate crime.
Michael Cassidy, 35, was initially charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief after allegedly tearing down the display in mid-December, which included a ram’s head made of mirrors on top of a mannequin dressed in red clothing.
According to the Satanic Temple of Iowa, the display represented the congregation’s 7 Tenets while expressing religious freedom and equal opportunity to all religions celebrating the holidays.
“We were informed by authorities that the Baphomet statue in our holiday display was destroyed beyond repair. We are proud to continue our holiday display for the next few days that we have been allotted,” the group posted on social media.
Shortly after his arrest, Cassidy began raising money from social media users who supported his actions at the Iowa State Capitol to cover $20,000 in legal defense funds. At this time, Cassidy has received over $91,000, with the number quickly climbing.
Damages made to the display are estimated to have cost $750 and $1,500 to repair, with further investigation into the incident increasing Cassidy’s charge to third-degree criminal mischief. He is scheduled to be arraigned on February 15.
In 2022, Cassidy — a former Naval Reserve pilot with no prior political experience — ran an unsuccessful campaign against incumbent Rep. Michael Guest losing during the Republican primary runoff for Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District. Cassidy then attempted to run for District 45 representative in Mississippi before losing to Democrat Keith Jackson during the 2023 general election.
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