SKOKIE, Ill. (STMW) – A neo-Nazi spray-painted swastikas and anti-Semitic slurs on headstones at nearly 70 graves in a suburban Jewish cemetery to demonstrate his hatred, Cook County prosecutors said at the opening of his trial Wednesday.

Mariusz Wdziekonski, a 24-year-old Norridge resident, also vandalized the graves at Westlawn Cemetery to show off his beliefs to other extremists who belonged to the same white supremacist group,

“He did this because he is a Nazi and he hates Jews,” prosecutor Lauren Brown told jurors in a Skokie courtroom. “He told police he did it because he wanted to be a hero.”

Wdziekonski allegedly desecrated 55 headstones and 12 monuments during a late-night vandalism spree in January 2008 at the cemetery in unincorporated Norridge Park Township.

Some markers were sprayed with swastikas and other Nazi symbols, some were damaged by slurs that included “white power” and “Aryan power.”

One relative described for jurors how his father’s tombstone was desecrated.

“There was a swastika and a hangman’s noose attached to the Jewish star,” said Michael Horowitz, who glared at Wdziekonski as he described the damage.

The markers were stained with blue and white paint–colors Wdziekonski allegedly chose to mock the colors of the Israeli flag, prosecutors said.

Cook County sheriff’s police arrested Wdziekonski a few weeks later after receiving a tip that he may have been involved in the vandalism.

Wdziekonski readily admitted being a neo-Nazi–even showing off a uniform and swastika armband–but initially denied damaging the headstones, said Lt. Michael Anton.

During questioning, however, Wdziekonski eventually admitted vandalizing the graves, Anton testified.

Defense attorney Edwin Belz contended Wdziekonski, a machine mechanic, was working when the cemetery was vandalized. He told jurors that police pressured Wdziekonski to confess to the crime, telling him he would be deported to his native Poland if he didn’t admit to the vandalism.

If convicted of institutional vandalism and criminal defacement, Wdziekonski faces a term of three- to seven-years in prison.

But Wdziekonski would serve only half that sentence–and he already has been jailed for nearly three years since his Jan. 31, 2008 arrest.

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