Klan members sentenced for plot to blow up synagogue

By JIM LEWIS  |  Jan. 4, 1982
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A federal judge, saying he wanted to deter similar acts in the future, Monday sentenced two members of a Ku Klux Klan splinter group to prison terms of 15 and 5 years for plotting to blow up a synagogue.

'I think there should be some deterrent to other people,' said U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Wiseman before sentencing Gladys Girgenti, 51, to a 15-year sentence and Bobby Joe Norton, 35, to five years.

A third defendant, William Foutch, a reputed Neo-Nazi, will be sentenced Friday in connection with the same charges.

'I am sorry this happened,' said the gray-haired, matronly Mrs. Girgenti. 'I have learned a lot. There is something I would like to say about why this happened, but I can't in front of the media.'

The three were convicted on four counts of conspiracy to blow up a Nashville synagogue, a Nashville television tower and a number of Jewish-owned pawn shops in the city.

Mrs. Girgenti was sentenced to 10-year terms on each of three counts with the sentences to run concurrently and one five-year term to run consecutively on the fourth count.

Norton was given five years on each of the four counts to run concurrently.

Before imposing the sentence, Wiseman said a KKK newsletter had come into his possession urging letters be sent to obtain clemency for Mrs. Girgenti, who the newsletter said was tried by a 'Jewish judge.'

Wiseman, who is not Jewish, said he does not 'let religious preferences enter into it.

However, Wiseman delivered a scathing rebuke to the defendants after their attorneys, in asking clemency, claimed the defendants were prosecuted for their First Amendment protected beliefs and not for their actions.

'What you have been tried for is the antithesis of the First Amendment,' Wiseman said. 'It was a crime directed toward persons because of their beliefs.'

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