If I didn’t know better I would think that there’s something called Jewish privilege, where hostile actions against Jews are punished far more severely than other crimes.
Nobody was killed. Nobody was injured. There was apparently only minor property damage to Jewish property.
Yet, the two defendants, pictured above, are getting hammered with long sentences.
This, after the white defendant apologized, while the mystery meat defendant didn’t.
HACKENSACK — Two Lodi men were sentenced to 35 years in state prison Friday on terrorism and other charges for a string of crimes at Jewish facilities in Bergen County where they spray painted anti-semitic messages and threw Molotov cocktails.
Anthony Graziano and Aakash Dalal, both 25, showed no emotion when Judge Joseph Isabella ordered them to serve 32 years on the terrorism charge and a consecutive 36 months on bias intimidation charges. The sentences for other charges will run concurrently.
This is the first case in which the state’s post-9/11 terrorism statute was used. It mandates a prison term of 30 years to life.
During Friday’s sentencing, Graziano addressed the court, telling Isabella that his views against Jews were wrong.
“I’m sorry for what my actions caused,” Graziano said. “The way I chose to express myself with violence was wrong … The hatred I had for the Jewish faith was unacceptable. I hope the Jewish community can find peace after tragedy.”
Graziano’s mother also tearfully spoke, apologizing to the Jewish community.
“I’m so, so sorry for my son’s actions,” Denise Rivas said. “This is not the boy I raised.”
Rivas said her pizza and baseball-loving son sought the help of Dalal, his former schoolmate, with a math course he was taking at Bergen Community College.
“In that short time something bad happened to my son,” she said. He “was brain-washed and taught to hate.”
Dalal did not speak, nor did his family.
The crimes in late 2011 and 2012 left the Jewish community on edge. Graziano and Dalal, a Rutgers student at the time, spray-painted swastikas and other anti-Semitic messages at temples in Maywood and Hackensack in December 2011.
In January 2011, the two threw Molotov cocktails at the back of Temple K’Hal Adith Jeshrun in Paramus in an attempt to burn it down. They also planned to firebomb the Jewish Community Center in Paramus about a week later, but Graziano fled when a police patrol car was at the scene doing a regular check of the facility. He left behind unused Molotov supplies and his bicycle. Police found them after the two men’s final attack, where they firebombed a Rutherford temple.
Dalal, whom prosecutors called “the brains” was convicted on 20 counts and Graziano, “the brawn” was found guilty on 18 counts in separate trials last year presided over by Isabella, a Hudson County judge, at Superior Court in Hackensack.
Isabella was brought in to handle the cases because Dalal also faced charges of conspiring to murder an assistant prosecutor from the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office. That indictment was dismissed after his conviction in this case.
Attorneys for Graziano and Dalal argued in front of a packed courtroom Friday for the judge to impose the minimum sentence of 30 years saying that the defendants were only 19 years old when they committed the crimes.
“I ask the court to give him an opportunity to be back out in society after he pays his debt so he can have some semblance of a life,” Attorney Ian Silvera said, noting his client, Graziano, would be in his 50s.
“He’s not a young man who is bitter,” Silvera said. He recognizes that he made a huge mistake in his life … to kill anyone was never his intention.”
Dalal’s attorney, Brian Nearly, told Isabella that the 30-year sentence was “excessive when applied to a 19-year-old.”
But, Assistant Prosecutor Brian Sinclair reminded Isabella of chat messages the two men exchanged during their rein of terror, in which they referred to Jews as “subhuman” with “reptile features.”
“They were partners in hate. Partners in intimidation and ultimately in crime,” he said.
Sinclair said Dalal “tweaked,” “pushed” and “critiqued” Graziano as their anti-Semitic vandalism that began at a Maywood synagogue evolved into firebombing a wooden synagogue in Rutherford while a Rabbi and his family slept.
“I don’t trust you until you kill a Jew,” Dalal said to Graziano in a chat message.
Their attacks culminated on Jan. 11, 2012, when the bedroom of Rabbi Neil Schuman was firebombed while he, his wife, father and five children were asleep inside.
Schuman’s ex-wife spoke at the sentencing tearfully telling Isabella that the post-traumatic stress she suffers from the incident has impacted her relationships.
She told of having to choose between getting her father-in-law from a third floor bedroom or escorting her five children from the fire ravaged second floor of their home, which was adjacent to Congregation Beth El.
“I was screaming on the phone at the police saying I can’t leave [the burning building] until you come,” she said, because she feared whoever threw the Molotov cocktails into her bedroom was waiting outside to do more harm to the family.
Rabbi Arthur Seiner, of the Jewish Community Center in Paramus, told the court that the impacts of the crimes “have been severe.”
All synagogues in the area have had to invest tens of thousands of dollars in security upgrades, he said. And synagogue leaders have had to talk with multiple generations of worshipers about hate crimes.
Mark Zettel, president of Temple Beth El in Hackensack, which was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, said after the sentencing that it was a sad day.
“The community is still shaken and there seems to still be no sense to it,” he said of the crimes.
The case should “continue to remind people that things like this should never happen,” he said. “When they do, justice will be served and people will suffer those consequences.”
“If we can just all get along, we never have to be in a places like this,” Zettler said, gesturing toward the courtroom.
The Jews who testified about the effects of the defendants’ actions are exaggerating. With Jews, you lose. The defendants certainly lost.