Also Charged With Previous Arson in Paramus
Authorities in New Jersey on Tuesday announced the arrest of a suspect in the January 11 firebombing attack against a synagogue in Rutherford, New Jersey. Anthony Graziano, 19, a resident of Lodi, was charged with the Rutherford attack – which, besides the synagogue, targeted the adjacent home of its rabbi – and he was additionally charged with the January 3 arson of a synagogue in Paramus. Graziano is being held on $5 million bail.
The charges include nine counts of attempted murder, bias intimidation, arson and aggravated arson. The unemployed teenager was scheduled to make his first court appearance on Wednesday morning. “We have no doubt that the arson and attempted murder in Rutherford were a direct result of Mr. Graziano’s hatred of people of the Jewish faith,” Bergen County prosecutor John Molinelli said.
According to Molinelli, despite his lack of access to a car, Graziano scoured the Internet to locate nearby synagogues and rode his bike to the two locations. At the Rutherford synagogue and home of Rabbi Nosson Schuman, Graziano threw Molotov cocktails and other incendiary devices before riding away from the scene. Authorities believe he acted alone.
Speaking with a New Jersey newspaper, Graziano’s father disclosed that he sees his son infrequently but that the young man had never indicated he had any hatred toward Jews. He called his son a great kid who is admittedly “confused.” The Associated Press quoted a man who answered the door at the teenager’s home that Graziano’s mother was too distraught to speak and was totally unaware of his activities.
The original police report on the Rutherford attack stated that an attacker threw Molotov cocktails at Congregation Beth El in the early morning, igniting a fire in the second-floor bedroom of Rabbi Schuman’s residence, where the rabbi – along with his wife, five children and his parents – were sleeping. According to the prosecutor, Graziano knew there were people were in the residence when he threw the explosives.
“I’m elated,” Rabbi Schuman said Tuesday about the arrest. “It’s been a very stressful two weeks even with police coverage at our home. We’re still a little scared because obviously this guy’s not normal. Maybe this will restore life back to some normality, though we will still be doing outreach to try and restore unity.”
In the other synagogue attack, fire and police officials determined an accelerant had been placed in the rear of Congregation K’Hal Adath Jeshurun in Paramus on the morning of Jan. 3, when synagogue members smelled gas in the building and contacted authorities. The fire had quickly dissipated, and no injuries were reported.
Graziano’s arrest was accomplished through meticulous police work, along with an alert public. After police had identified the ingredients of the explosive devices used in the Rutherford attack — including low-grade motor oil and empty bottles of raspberry Crush soda — investigators canvassed the wider area for stores that sold all of those items. They pinpointed a Wal-Mart in nearby Saddle Brook and were able to obtain surveillance video showing a man buying those items on January 9.
Last week, after releasing photos and video, police received tips that led them to Graziano late Monday at his home. Attempted murder carries a sentence of life in prison with a minimum of 30 years before parole, while arson carries a 15-year maximum sentence.
“It is very disturbing that a hate monger was living right in our midst in Bergen County,” said Etzion Neuer, acting New Jersey director of the Anti-Defamation League. “But this sends a message that it will not be tolerated.”