On the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, anti-Semitic materials and graffiti were found in the Garden of Remembrance in White Plains, near the Westchester County Office Building. The police will be searching for the individual(s) involved. The question I have is: what will happen to the individual if he/she is caught, if it’s a first offense will the punishment be insignificant? Will the defendant be sent to jail? Should the defendant, if found guilty, be required to reimburse the local governments for the costs associated with the detective work, police investigations? Should the NYS Legislature amend the state law and require a significant punishment that would deter other acts of hate? And require judges to impose a minimum penalty?
This incident is not isolated. In recent weeks there have been other incidents of anti-Semitism. Swastikas were found at Scarsdale High School. Over the years other municipalities in Westchester have also seen these kind of hate crimes.
Two years ago I received three separate emails with numerous anti-Semitic slurs. The final sentence bore the threat “You better run and hide you stupid f___ing Jew. We are coming for you and your family.” The emails were signed by “Anti Zionist.”
Although the emails did not have the defendant’s real name on it, the Greenburgh Police were able to make an arrest after three weeks of searching. The individual pleaded not guilty and a trial was held in White Plains Court in September. Although I was pleased that the White Plains judge found that the defendant was guilty, I was surprised that the sentence was so light: 72 hours of community service, an order of protection for me and my wife and daughter, and one year conditional discharge. Prior to the arrest the Greenburgh Police provided my family with 24 hours’ round the clock police protection — a very expensive police presence that the defendant did not have to reimburse the town for.
If defendants, once caught, get only a slap on the wrist, there will be no disincentive not to commit the crime. I think there should be tougher penalties to discourage crimes of hate.
I urge the New York State Legislature, civic and religious leaders to come up with minimum punishments for hate crimes. This should not be restricted to anti-Semitism but should include all acts of hate. We can’t look the other way. History repeats itself.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor