Connecticut’s prison system has fired a guard after an Islamic group complained about an anti-Muslim meme he posted on social media years ago.
In a termination letter dated Tuesday and obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, Garner Correctional Institution warden Amoda Hannah told Officer Anthony Marlak that his use of social media had “undermined the public's confidence in your ability to function in your position.”
“The type of speech posted threatens the safety of staff and inmates who are Muslim,” Hannah wrote. “Your actions violate the standard of conduct for correctional employees and will not be condoned or tolerated.”
The Connecticut Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations had called for the firing of Marlak in January, citing a meme he posted on Facebook in 2018, depicting five apparently Muslim men hanging from nooses with the caption, “Islamic Wind Chimes.”
“This decision sends exactly the right message that prejudice and bigotry has no place in the Department of Correction,” said Farhan Memon, the chapter's chairman. “Marlak’s comments were unacceptable because they suggested that he could be a danger to Muslim inmates.”
Marlak’s Facebook page, under the alias Tony Mint, had a profile that read “I am the prototype, infidel, veteran, boss. Stand back and I will handle it. Now walk away.”
Reached at his auto detailing business Wednesday, Marlak said he had been cleared of any wrongdoing two years ago following a departmental investigation and said his life has been turned upside down by the renewed accusations.
“I'm an honorably discharged veteran of the United States military,” he said. “I've been threatened and had people come and try to hurt me with weapons at my family's place of business and now my life has been destroyed. All I know is that I did nothing wrong, I'm going to clear my name and this should never, ever have turned into what it's turned into.”
During an interview with Correction Department officials following a confrontation with a Muslim correction officer this past summer, Marlak acknowledged reposting the wind-chime meme in 2018, when he was using a different alias, Anthony David. He said it was targeting ISIS and not Muslims in general.
“It was ISIS — dead ISIS hangin’ from nooses, OK?” he said. “In the military, any red-blooded American, like I’ve told a bunch of people, we just — we don’t like ISIS. They do bad things to our people and I’m anti-ISIS. Not anti-Muslim.”
Marlak was given a five-day suspension in December for his part in the confrontation and for making inappropriate remarks toward the other guard.