Mississippi man accused of destroying pagan idol statue at Iowa State Capitol accepts plea deal

A Mississippi man accused of destroying a statue of a pagan idol at the Iowa State Capitol last December pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in exchange for prosecutors dropping a felony hate crime charge.

DES MOINES, Iowa – A Mississippi man accused of destroying a statue of a pagan idol at the Iowa State Capitol pleaded guilty Friday to a reduced charge in exchange for prosecutors dropping a felony hate crime charge.

Michael Cassidy, a former legislative and congressional candidate, was set to stand trial June 3, but his attorney pleaded guilty on his behalf to an aggravated misdemeanor of third-degree criminal mischief, the Des Moines Register reported. Cassidy admitted in writing that he “partially dismantled a display at the Iowa State Capitol building, without right/license to do so,” and that the damage was more than $750.

On December 14, the figure representing the horned deity Baphomet was “destroyed beyond repair,” according to the group.

“I saw this blasphemous statue and I was outraged,” Cassidy told the conservative website The Sentinel in December. “My conscience is captive to the word of God, not to a bureaucratic decree. And that’s how I acted.”

Cassidy raised more than $134,000 for his defense through the Christian fundraising site GiveSendGo, where his supporters said he acted with “courage and conviction.” He was not willing to see God reviled, especially in a building where legislators are supposed to honor Jesus Christ as King and seek wisdom in his law by legislating with justice and righteousness.”

Founded in 2013, the Salem, Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple says it does not believe in Satan, but describes itself as a “non-theistic religious organization” that advocates secularism. It is separate from the Church of Satan, which was founded in the 1960s.

The plea agreement calls for Cassidy to receive a deferred judgment with two years of probation, an $855 civil fine and to pay restitution in an amount to be determined. He would also be required to participate in a victim-offender dialogue with representatives of the Satanic Temple if he requests it. However, the sentencing recommendation is not binding on the court.