New Jersey Man in Custody for Threatening to Beat Up Orthodox Jews Over Coronavirus Distancing
A New Jersey man is behind bars after allegedly making violent threats on Facebook against a local Jewish community over the coronavirus pandemic.
42-year-old Anthony Lodespoto of Howell, New Jersey, was arrested on Friday afternoon and taken to Ocean County Jail.
The previous night, Lodespoto posted his antisemitic threat using Facebook Messenger — asserting that the Orthodox Jewish community in Lakewood, New Jersey, was not observing social distancing protocols, and warning that he planned to travel to the township “with the purpose of assaulting members of the Jewish community with a baseball bat,” the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.
Lodespoto also sent a similar direct message to Gov. Phil Murphy’s Facebook account on Friday, New Jersey state police confirmed in a separate statement.
New Jersey police spokesperson Capt. Gregory Staffordsmith explained in a statement that Lodespoto had “made specific threats to cause harm to members of the Jewish community for not complying with the orders set forth” regarding distancing.
Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer said that his office was determined to combat acts of hatred sparked by conspiracy theories about the coronavirus.
“As chief law enforcement officer of Ocean County, it is my sworn duty to enforce the law and protect all of our residents,” Billhimer said in a statement. “To that end, employing a public health crisis and worldwide pandemic as an excuse to propagate hate and fear is unconscionable. This behavior is contrary to law and will not be tolerated. I am keenly aware these are extraordinarily stressful times, but that does not give anyone license to engage in violent behavior or threaten to commit violent acts.”
Billheimer added: “The statements made by this individual were not an exercise in free speech; rather, they exhibited an abhorrence to the values of a free and civilized society.”