A teenager charged with attempted murder in the firebombings of two New Jersey synagogues pleaded not guilty Wednesday, as authorities announced they would conduct a sweep of synagogues within a 10-mile radius of his home to look for arson materials.
The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office characterized the search as precautionary and didn't say it was prompted by a specific threat or by new information the suspect had provided.
Authorities have contended 19-year-old Anthony Graziano searched on the Internet for synagogues near his home in Lodi and carried out his attacks using a bicycle as transportation.
Graziano appeared briefly in state Superior Court in an orange prison jumpsuit Wednesday with his hands and feet shackled. He didn't speak during the five-minute proceeding and stood expressionless as public defender Robert Kalisch entered the not-guilty plea.
Graziano is being held on $5 million bail, a sum Kalisch, said he would seek to have lowered. A bail hearing could occur next week.
"We'll be seeking a considerable bail reduction," Kalisch said. "That bail is a lot of money. It's higher than for most murders in this county."
Kalisch said he likely would file for a change of venue, but it wasn't clear where a potential trial could be moved.
"I don't know where the venue would be because of all the publicity this case has gotten," he said outside the courthouse.
Bergen County prosecutor John Molinelli said his office would oppose a change in venue. Judges don't often grant such requests; a notable exception was the 2004 manslaughter trial of former basketball star Jayson Williams, which was moved from Hunterdon County to Somerset County because of excessive pretrial publicity.
Graziano is charged with nine counts of attempted murder as well as bias intimidation, arson and aggravated arson. Since the attempted murder involved more than five people _ a rabbi, his wife and children and his parents were living above a synagogue in Rutherford that was attacked on Jan. 11 _ the maximum sentence is upgraded to life in prison with no parole for 30 years, the same as a murder charge.
While authorities characterized Graziano as harboring a hatred of Jews, they don't know what may have spurred him to violence. Molinelli said Wednesday that investigators hadn't found any indication that Graziano belonged to any extremist groups but had evidence that he shared his views with other people, though he didn't specify in what forum. He characterized Graziano as intelligent and aware of what was happening to him.
Authorities traced the materials in some of the bombs to a Wal-Mart store and captured surveillance images of a man buying the materials, later identified by tipsters as Graziano, who apparently had spoken to others about the attacks.
"A lot of people knew that he had done it," Molinelli said.