A Hasidic teenager was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for the firebomb attack that badly burned a neighbor during a religious dispute in an insular Jewish enclave.
A defense attorney said the sentence was fair but worried about prison life for an 18-year-old who has "never seen TV, never been on the Internet, doesn't know who Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter are."
Shaul Spitzer of New Square had been charged with attempted murder but pleaded guilty to assault as potential jurors gathered for his trial in February. A trial would have brought unwanted attention to New Square, a New York village where nearly every one of the 7,000 residents is a member of the Skver Hasidic sect.
Spitzer admitted that he attacked Aron Rottenberg, a plumber, outside Rottenberg's home in May. He said he did it because Rottenberg defied New Square's grand rabbi by worshiping with nursing home residents rather than at New Square's main synagogue.
Rottenberg, a plumber, claimed in a lawsuit that Spitzer was acting at the direction of the rabbi, David Twersky. The rabbi denied involvement and was not charged. The lawsuit was settled for $2.3 million.
Rottenberg had asked Rockland County Court Judge William Kelly to be lenient with Spitzer, who was also burned, and the judge came down from the 10-year cap he had promised after the plea deal.
Defense attorney Kenneth Gribetz said the sentence was "fair and compassionate." But he said he fears for Spitzer, who he said will be the rare inmate who has had "no exposure to the outside world."
"His whole life has been the rabbi and the synagogue and now he's going to state prison," Gribetz said. "This is a very severe sentence for a boy from New Square. I hope he can be safeguarded."
New Square is about 30 miles north of Manhattan. The sect and the village are named for the Ukrainian village of Skver, where sect members were killed during the Holocaust.