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Neo-Nazi Convicted Of Vandalizing Jewish Cemetery

SKOKIE, Ill. (CBS) -- An admitted neo-Nazi was convicted Friday of desecrating nearly 70 Jewish graves with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti in 2008.

A Cook County jury deliberated for less than two hours on Friday before finding Mariusz Wdziekonski, 24, guilty of two felony charges in the January 2008 vandalism at Westlawn Cemetery in unincorporated Norridge Park Township.

"I'm really happy the jury saw him for who he was. It's good to see justice served," said Assistant State's Attorney Lauren Brown, who with Karen Baltazar prosecuted Wdziekonski.

The Norridge man was convicted of spray-painting swastikas, Nazi slogans and slurs--including "Aryan power"--on 67 headstones and memorials at the Jewish cemetery.

Wdziekonski admitted being a neo-Nazi but denied during the trial that he vandalized the graves, saying he was working and visiting a friend when the graves were desecrated.

Cook County sheriff's police officers testified that Wdziekonski at first denied but ultimately admitted that he vandalized the graves.

The five-man, seven-woman jury took "a couple" test votes during its deliberations before convicting Wdziekonski, jury foreman Jesse Johnson said after the verdicts were announced.

Johnson said he was struck by Wdziekonski's lack of remorse over his actions.

"I think the main thing was that he was proud of what he did," Johnson said.

Defense attorney Edwin Belz expressed surprise that jurors hadn't given more credence to Wdziekonski's claims that he didn't vandalize the cemetery.

"I'm disappointed that they (jurors) believed the police department testimony regarding his confessions over his alibi," Belz said.

Wdziekonski faces a possible three- to seven-year prison term, but by law he would serve only half of whatever penalty is imposed upon him.

He likely will serve little or no additional time behind bars because he already has been jailed for nearly three years--since his Jan. 31, 2008 arrest.

But the felony convictions mean Wdziekonski, a Polish immigrant who has been in the United States since 2004, ultimately could face deportation, authorities said.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)


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