Former Mississippi politician Michael Cassidy is being charged with third-degree criminal mischief after he dismantled a satanic display at the Iowa Capitol. The felony charges were made public on Tuesday after Polk County prosecutors alleged his hate crime was more offensive than his original charges portrayed.
On Dec. 14, 2023, the Satanic Temple of Iowa (STI) put together a display at the Iowa Capitol, which included a statue of their pagan idol Baphomet. The state of Iowa allows religious displays to be placed in the capitol during holiday seasons. Cassidy removed that statue and destroyed it “beyond repair,” according to the STI.
In an interview with Des Moines Register, Cassidy said, “I pulled the head off the statue. The display seemed to be made of cheap material. I pulled it apart and put it in the garbage bag. Then I went to security and told them what I did.” The damage estimate filed by the STI values the repair costs at $3,000.
Spokeswoman for the Polk County Attorney’s Office Lynn Hicks said in an announcement that Cassidy admitted to destroying the display due to the victim’s religion. Lynn also said the intent and the price of repairs are what amount the act to a felony charge. Under Iowa’s hate crime statute, Cassidy violated individual rights. Cassidy said that he removed that statue because he felt, “confronted with how evil it was.”
Back in December, just two days after the hate crime took place, Cassidy was only charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief. The Iowa Department of Public Safety reported that he would face one year in prison and a $2,560 fine. This week, prosecutors upped his charges to third-degree; Cassidy is now facing a harsher punishment.
Following the announcement of Cassidy’s charges, a fundraiser was started on the site GiveSendGo to help cover his legal defense fees. As of today, he has raised over $100,000, more than quadrupling his goal.
Among his more than 2,000 supporters are several Republican politicians and political organizations. Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis said, “Satan has no place in our society and should not be recognized as a religion by the federal government,” according to The Daily Caller. DeSantis donated to the fundraiser along with Turning Point USA who donated $10,000. Governor Kim Reynolds (R-IA) also showed support to Cassidy by calling the Baphomet statue “objectionable” and urging residents to pray.