Archive for New York

Shaul Spitzer: Teen Gets Prison in Religious Dispute Firebomb

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2012 by loonwatch

 

Shaul_Spitzer_Hasidic

Shaul Spitzer

What if he were Muslim? Spitzer firebombed his neighbor for disagreeing with a Rabbi’s religious opinion. Should Judaism be blamed for this now? Of course not.

Spitzer’s sentence was reduced because of concern about how he will fair in prison life. Hopefully some Muslim prisoners can protect Spitzer while he is in prison, he will certainly need help (h/t: JD):

NY teen gets prison in religious-dispute firebomb

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A Hasidic teenager was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for the firebomb attack that badly burned a neighbor during a religious dispute in an insular Jewish enclave.

A defense attorney said the sentence was fair but worried about prison life for an 18-year-old who has “never seen TV, never been on the Internet, doesn’t know who Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter are.”

Shaul Spitzer of New Square had been charged with attempted murder but pleaded guilty to assault as potential jurors gathered for his trial in February. A trial would have brought unwanted attention to New Square, a New York village where nearly every one of the 7,000 residents is a member of the Skver Hasidic sect.

Spitzer admitted that he attacked Aron Rottenberg, a plumber, outside Rottenberg’s home in May. He said he did it because Rottenberg defied New Square’s grand rabbi by worshiping with nursing home residents rather than at New Square’s main synagogue.

Rottenberg, a plumber, claimed in a lawsuit that Spitzer was acting at the direction of the rabbi, David Twersky. The rabbi denied involvement and was not charged. The lawsuit was settled for $2.3 million.

Rottenberg had asked Rockland County Court Judge William Kelly to be lenient with Spitzer, who was also burned, and the judge came down from the 10-year cap he had promised after the plea deal.

Defense attorney Kenneth Gribetz said the sentence was “fair and compassionate.” But he said he fears for Spitzer, who he said will be the rare inmate who has had “no exposure to the outside world.”

“His whole life has been the rabbi and the synagogue and now he’s going to state prison,” Gribetz said. “This is a very severe sentence for a boy from New Square. I hope he can be safeguarded.”

New Square is about 30 miles north of Manhattan. The sect and the village are named for the Ukrainian village of Skver, where sect members were killed during the Holocaust.

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Peter King Defends NYPD Monitoring, Plans More Hearings on Islam

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by loonwatch

This should come to no surprise that Peter King will defend the NYPD monitoring. He must be really proud.

Peter King Defends NYPD Monitoring, Plans More Hearings on Islam

by George Zornick

Appearing on WCBS in New York this morning, Representative Peter King offered a strong defense of NYPD’s spying on mosques and Muslim businesses and student groups in several states. Criticism of the recently revealed program has intensified in recent days, but King said he was proud of the police department.

“[Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly and the NYPD should get a medal for what they are doing,” he said. “This is good police work. If you are going after radical Muslims you don’t go to Ben’s Kosher Deli.”

This is perhaps not surprising coming from the man who held highly controversial Capitol Hill hearings into Muslim Americans last year, which many people saw as essentially profiling by public relations; his colleague, Representative Keith Ellison invoked the specter of Joe McCarthy in criticizing King’s efforts and said they served to “vilify” Muslims.

But, alas, King announced last week that he would hold more hearings into domestic radicalization among Muslim Americans in the coming year. “The series of radicalization hearings I convened last March has been very productive,” King said in a statement. “I will definitely continue the hearings in 2012.”

This is a good time to flag a recent study by Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina and member of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. His comprehensive examination of crime statistics found that terrorism-related incidents by Muslim Americans has declined markedly, and that Muslim-Americans represent “a minuscule threat to public safety.” He wrote:

The limited scale of Muslim-American terrorism in 2011 runs counter to the fears that many Americans shared in the days and months after 9/11, that domestic Muslim American terrorism would escalate. The spike in terrorism cases in 2009 renewed these concerns, as have repeated warnings from U.S. government officials about a possible surge in homegrown Islamic terrorism. The predicted surge has not materialized.

Repeated alerts by government officials maybe issued as a precaution, even when the underlying threat is uncertain. Officials may be concerned about how they would look if an attack did take place and subsequent investigations showed that officials had failed to warn the public. But a byproduct of these alerts is a sense of heightened tension that is out of proportion to the actual number of terrorist attacks in the United States since 9/11.

If King calls Kurzman to testify at his hearings I’ll eat my hat, but it’s possible Democrats on the committee could arrange for his appearance. He would provide a substantive counterweight to King’s typically anecdote-driven hysteria. Last week the FBI foiled a plot in which a Moroccan man wanted to bomb the US Capitol—you can bet King will give that episode a prominent role at his hearings.

Someone Called the FBI on NYPD Officers Pretending to Be Muslim Students

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2012 by loonwatch

Someone Called the FBI on NYPD Officers Pretending to Be Muslim Students

When the New York Police Department was doing some spying on Muslim students outside the city (that’s a thing it does, we learned from the Associated Press on Monday), an apartment officers used to spy on Rutgers students got a visit from the FBI on a report that it was a terrorist cell itself. This is the kind of reporting that won the AP a Polk award Monday for its series on the NYPD spying on Muslims. Not only did the department go well outside its jurisdiction to “get a better handle on what was occurring at” Muslim Student Associations, as spokesman Paul Browne told the AP, it did so in a pretty Keystone Kops manner at times:

Police also were interested in the Muslim student group at Rutgers, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 2009, undercover NYPD officers had a safe house in an apartment not far from campus. The operation was blown when the building superintendent stumbled upon the safe house and, thinking it was some sort of a terrorist cell, called the police emerency dispatcher.

The FBI responded and determined that monitoring Rutgers students was one of the operation’s objectives, current and former federal officials said.

Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments or send an email to the author atamartin@theatlantic.com. You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.

Anti Muslim Graffiti Scrawled on Kensington Insurance Shop

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2012 by loonwatch
Anti Muslim graffiti insulting Allah scrawled on Kensington insurance shop.
Anti Muslim graffiti insulting Allah scrawled on Kensington insurance shop.

Anti Muslim graffiti insulting Allah scrawled on Kensington insurance shop

By Simone Weichselbaum / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Bangladeshis in Kensington said they are living in fear after Muslim hate graffiti was found on a storefront in the neighborhood’s bustling shopping strip.

The manager of TDS Insurance on Beverly Road near McDonald Avenue, came to work Monday and spotted a nauseating sight:

“It was written on the outside – ‘Allah is s–t,’” said Abu Chowdhury, 51, who immediately called the cops.

“I have no enemies,” he said. “We are not a religious business.”

Although the hateful message was erased hours later, Bangladeshis said the sight left them emotionally scarred.

“It is just shocking,” said Mamnunul Haq, a Bangladeshi community leader. “No one wants to see anything like that.”

“We are a very peaceful people,” Haq added.

Kensington is one of the most diverse areas in the city – home to a Muslim stronghold mainly comprised of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, living among Mexican families and Orthodox Jews.

Bangladeshis joined their Hasidic neighbors in July during the search for Leiby Kletzky, the 8-year-old boy who went missing in Borough Park and was later found dead.

They also blasted the vandal or vandals who painted a half dozen swastikas around Midwood last month.

“It happened in the Jewish community. And now it is happening in ours,” Haq said.

Hoping to quell the growing anxiety, Councilman Brad Lander (D-Kensington) held a meeting Wednesday night with Bangladeshi, Jewish, and Latino residents discussing ideas about how to prevent future hate crimes in their hood.

Lander wants to put a set of trees and benches in front of TDS Insurance, calling it “Kensington Plaza,” serving as a mixed race meeting spot.

“In the face of hatred, this community is coming together,” Lander said. “When these things happen, you have to stand up.”

simonew@nydailynews.com

Shaul Spitzer, Hasidic Man Admits Burning Neighbor In New York Religious Dispute

Posted in Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , on February 12, 2012 by loonwatch
Shaul_Spitzer_Hasidic
Shaul Spitzer

What if he were Muslim?

Shaul Spitzer, Hasidic Man Admits Burning Neighbor In New York Religious Dispute

NEW CITY, NY, Feb 7 (Reuters) – A Hasidic Jewish man from New York state pleaded guilty to assault on Tuesday for setting a neighbor on fire because he wasn’t praying with the rest of the community, leaving the man badly burned.

Shaul Spitzer, 18, of New Square, New York, admitted to lighting Aron Rottenberg ablaze after learning that he had disobeyed a prayer order by the Grand Rebbe of the Hasidic enclave about 35 miles north of New York City.

He pleaded guilty to assault in a New York court and faces up to 10 years in prison, although Judge William Kelly said he would likely receive a 5-year sentence.

Spitzer, who worked for Grand Rebbe David Twersky, admitted in court that he used a heavy duty propane lighter to set Rottenberg on fire in May 2011.

He lit him on fire when Rottenberg confronted him after Spitzer had stuffed gasoline-soaked shirts into a bag, lit it on fire and threw it onto the porch of Rottenberg’s home, he admitted. The family was sleeping inside, court documents said.

Prosecutor Stephen Moore said Rottenberg spent more than a month in the hospital for severe burns.

Under the plea deal, charges of attempted murder and arson were dismissed. Spitzer could have faced a 25-year prison sentence for those charges. Outside court, Spitzer’s attorney Kenneth Gribetz said his client had been trying to cause mischief, not to kill anyone.

“This is a young boy who has no criminal intent,” he said. “He’s not a criminal … He should be given a chance to get back on the right track.”

Spitzer, who will be sentenced in April, entered his plea on the day jury selection was set to begin in the case. Rottenberg was in court and told the judge he consented to the plea deal.

Court documents said Rottenberg’s family had received several threats and had their property vandalized for not praying in the community’s main synagogue.

Rottenburg has a pending civil lawsuit against Spitzer and Twersky stemming from the incident. Gribetz said in court a settlement in the $2 million range was under discussion. (Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston

New York Times: Muslims Targeted in Wave of Firebombing

Posted in Feature, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2012 by loonwatch

All the facts on this are not clear yet, but it is being reported as a bias crime in many reports. If this holds true then it will be another manifestation of the all too real threat to Muslim communities from radical hatemongers.

Four Attacks in Queens With Homemade Firebombs

By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS (NYTimes)

A wave of arson attacks spread across eastern Queens on Sunday night, and the police said the firebombings were being investigated as bias crimes — with Muslims as the targets.

No one was hurt in the four attacks, in which homemade firebombs were apparently used. In three of the four attacks, the police said, Molotov cocktails were made with Starbucks bottles.

The first attack occurred just before 8 p.m. at a bodega at 179-40 Hillside Avenue.

Ten minutes later, another crude firebomb was thrown, this time at a private home at 146-62 107th Avenue, and the house caught fire.

Half an hour after that, an Islamic center at 89-89 Van Wyck Expressway was the target. The last attack occurred at a house at 88-20 170th Street, the police said.

The Islamic center, the Imam Al-Khoei Foundation, houses one of the most prominent Shiite mosques in New York. According to its Web site it offers funeral services, counseling and free SAT classes. It lists branches in several cities, including Montreal and Islamabad, Pakistan. Calls to the foundation were not returned Sunday night.

The firebomb, made with a glass Starbucks bottle, was thrown at the door of the center, possibly from a van as it drove it by, the police said. The door was blackened, but the building did not catch fire.

A similar weapon was found at the bodega, the site of the first attack, according to the police. The bomb might have been thrown from inside the store, because the counter sustained some damage, the police said.

It was the second attack, on 107th Avenue, police and fire officials said, that caused the most damage.

Shortly after 8 p.m., someone called 911, saying that a Molotov cocktail had been thrown at their home. The house caught fire, and it took more than 60 firefighters about 40 minutes to bring it under control.

In the fourth attack, two bottles were thrown at the house on 170th Street. A spokesman for the Fire Department said that the person who called 911 said they saw a vehicle drive by as the bottles were hurled toward their home. But the flames quickly fizzled.

New York Muslims Refuse to Attend Mayor Bloomberg’s Breakfast with Bagels

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2011 by loonwatch
The letter said Michael Bloomberg had 'defended the NYPD misconduct'. Photograph: Henny Ray Abrams/Reuters The letter said Michael Bloomberg had ‘defended the NYPD misconduct’. Photograph: Henny Ray Abrams/Reuters

New York Muslims to snub Bloomberg breakfast in surveillance protest

A group of prominent Muslim figures in New York City have said they will boycott an annual meeting on Friday with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in order to protest against police surveillance of their communities.

Bloomberg is scheduled to hold a multi-faith “Bagels with Bloomberg” breakfast with religious leaders from across the city on Friday morning, but the group has written to the mayor’s office outlining their reasons for refusing to attend.

In particular, the group says it is outraged at details that emerged earlier this year of a concerted effort by the New York police department to monitor activities of Muslims in New York. A series of reports by the Associated Press detailed the activities of a unit within the NYPD, called the Demographics Unit, that monitored daily life in Muslim communities, including eavesdropping in businesses and infiltrating mosques.

“According to the investigation, the police department monitored and collected information on New Yorkers at about 250 mosques, schools, and businesses throughout the city, simply because of their religion and not because they exhibited suspicious behavior,” the letter said.

It added: “Mayor Bloomberg, the extent of these civil rights violations is astonishing, yet instead of calling for accountability and the rule of law, you have thus far defended the NYPD’s misconduct. We, on the other hand, believe that such measures threaten the rights of all Americans, and deepen mistrust between our communities and law enforcement.”

The letter was signed by 15 prominent Muslim New Yorkers, including Khaled Lamada, head of the Muslim American Society, Omar Mohammedi, president of the Association of Muslim American Lawyers, Aisha al-Adawiya, founder of Women in Islam, and Iman Al Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, who president of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York.

Another signatory, Linda Sarsour, the director of the Arab-American Association of New York, told the Guardian that the AP reports had confirmed her worst fears. “This confirmed what we already knew. It gave validity to our concerns that we are being spied upon just because of our religion. That undermines the security of all New Yorkers,” Sarsour said.

Sarsour added that lawsuits against the NYPD were being considered in the wake of the AP investigation, and called for an independent inquiry into the activities of the department when it came to monitoring Muslim communities.

So far, that call has fallen on deaf ears. Senior police figures have denied that they targeted Muslim communities in general, claiming they only followed leads. Bloomberg has also strongly and consistently backed the city’s police department and its tactics.

An investigation by the CIA had looked at its role in helping the NYPD and recently concluded no wrongdoing had taken place.

But Sarsour remained unsatisfied.

“How can someone from the CIA be the one to investigate the CIA? We are asking for an independent investigation,” she said, saying it should be carried out by the Department of Justice or a Congressional committee.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office downplayed the impact of the letter and the boycott, saying that other Muslim leaders were still planning on attending the breakfast gathering. “We have a couple dozen Muslim community leaders who have RSVP-ed that they will be at the breakfast, which is about the same as previous years,” said Stu Loeser.

NYPD officials also weighed into the spat, saying that the AP story had exaggerated its activities. “The NYPD lawfully follows leads in terrorist-related investigations and does not engage in the kind of wholesale spying on communities that was false alleged,” said Paul Browne, an NYPD deputy commissioner.

But the revelations about the Demographics Unit are not the only controversy surrounding NYPD actions around Muslim Americans and terrorism. An NYPD operation last month arrested a suspected “lone wolf” terrorist in the shape of New Yorker Jose Pimentel. NYPD officials hailed the arrest, which occurred after a lengthy undercover operation that saw an NYPD informant supply Pimental with bomb-making equipment, as a major triumph.

However, it later emerged that the FBI had passed on co-operating on the case, because it believed the target was not a viable threat. That has led to accusations that the NYPD “entrapped” Pimental.