Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Firebomb Defense Says State Charges Go Too Far

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Firebomb Defense Says State Charges Go Too Far

Article excerpt

The attorney for a Lodi man charged with firebombing Jewish temples and a rabbi's home told a jury Thursday that his client was "overcharged" by the authorities who deemed his actions terroristic.

The trial of Anthony Graziano, 23, began in Bergen County Superior Court after 2 1/2 days of jury selection this week. The 10 women and six men heard opening statements from the defense and prosecution late Thursday afternoon before being dismissed until Tuesday, when the trial resumes at 9 a.m.

Graziano is charged, along with childhood friend Aakash Dalal, 23, in a 30-count indictment with criminal mischief, conspiracy, aggravated and bias intimidation arson, possession of a weapon, nine counts of attempted murder and other charges.

Hudson County Judge Joseph V. Isabella was assigned by the state Supreme Court to preside over the case because Dalal, who is being tried separately and at a later date, was charged with threatening the lives of two judges and an assistant prosecutor in Bergen County.

Authorities say Graziano and Dalal spray-painted anti-Semitic messages outside Temple Beth Israel in Maywood and Temple Beth El in Hackensack in December 2011. Then in January 2012, the two allegedly tried to set Temple K'Hal Adath Jeshurun in Paramus on fire.

A plot to throw Molotov cocktails into the Jewish Community Center in Paramus was allegedly abandoned by Graziano when a police patrol car passed by, causing him to leave behind Molotov cocktail equipment and a bicycle.

Then, authorities say, firebombs were tossed into the Rutherford residence of Rabbi Nosson "Neil" Schuman -- where he, his wife, five children and his parents slept -- in an attempt to burn down the adjacent Congregation Beth El.

Assistant Prosecutor Brian Sinclair told the jury that Graziano believed that "Jewish people controlled the world's banks" and he "thought they destroyed the country politically and socially," Sinclair said.

"The full month of terror escalated from spray paint to fire attack . …

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