Man pleads not guilty in NJ synagogue firebombings

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 25, 2012 7:58 PM
Man pleads not guilty in NJ synagogue firebombings

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 19-year-old man accused of attempted murder in the firebombing of two New Jersey synagogues including one that housed a rabbi who was burned when fire ignited a blanket on his bed pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

Anthony Graziano was arrested after the Bergen County prosecutor released a store surveillance video which it said showed him buying supplies used to make the Molotov cocktails used in the January 11 attack on the Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, New Jersey.

Prosecutors investigating the arsons as hate crimes have charged Graziano with nine counts of attempted murder in the first degree, along with charges of bias intimidation and aggravated arson in connection with the pair of attacks.

In the Rutherford case, petrol bombs thrown at a building that serves as both a synagogue and a rabbi's family home ignited a blanket on the rabbi's bed and he awoke to the flames, his wife told reporters at the time.

The rabbi, Nosson Schuman, put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher and suffered minor burns, police said. The house was minimally damaged. The rabbi, his wife, their five children, ages 5 to 17, and the rabbi's elderly parents evacuated the home, police said.

The charges against Graziano, who was in custody with bail set at $5 million, also included a separate firebomb attack on the Temple K'Hal Adath Jeshrun in Paramus, New Jersey, earlier in January, prosecutors said.

Police said they also retrieved evidence from Graziano's home in Lodi, New Jersey. The public defender representing Graziano could not be reached for comment.

Two instances of anti-Semitic graffiti being daubed on the walls of two other New Jersey synagogues in December were no longer thought to be connected to the arson attacks, investigators said.

(Reporting By Jonathan Allen; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)