Investigation into synagogue firebombings suspect

Anthony M. Graziano, of Lodi

January 25, 2012 7:55:02 PM PST
Police in New Jersey are trying to determine if a firebombing suspect was planning more crimes or if he was behind any that had happened as the community came together to combat hate crimes.

With security a concern, Jewish leaders and New Jersey law enforcement officials came together Wednesday night to launch a new emergency plan.

"The campaign underscores the concept that homeland security begins with hometown security," said Paul Goldenberg, of Secure Community Network.

It is the familiar "See something, say something" for a community still trying to make sense of a man's alleged intense hatred for people of Jewish faith.

As police probe deeper into the case, they say they have learned more information about 19-year-old Anthony Graziano.

Wednesday night Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli revealed that Graziano has a gun purchasing permit, and that investigators are trying to determine whether he tried to buy a gun.

Eyewitness News also learned that investigators have seized two computers from his home and are looking into whether he could be tied to other incidents.

They are also checking to see if he's researched other synagogues.

Graziano has been charged with nine counts of attempted murder, stemming from the fire bombing attack on Rutherford's Congregation Beth-El..

With the suspect off the streets investigators are concerned about what he may have left behind.

Did he stash materials in a wooded area as part of other planned attacks?

And, was he trying to pull off another attack?

"We're looking at something that was a plan of his that never took place," Molinelli said.

It's further evidence for members of the community exploring information that will help enhance security.

The teen charged with attempted murder in the firebombings of two synagogues pleaded not guilty Wednesday, and his attorney said he would likely seek to have a potential trial moved from the county where the attacks took place.

Anthony Graziano appeared briefly in state Superior Court in an orange prison jumpsuit and with his hands and feet shackled. He didn't speak during the five-minute proceeding and stood expressionless as public defender Robert Kalisch entered the not-guilty plea.

Graziano, of Lodi, is being held on $5 million bail, a sum Kalisch said he would seek to have lowered. A bail hearing could occur next week.

"We'll be seeking a considerable bail reduction," Kalisch said. "That bail is a lot of money. It's higher than for most murders in this county."

Kalisch said it wasn't clear where a potential trial could be moved.

"I don't know where the venue would be because of all the publicity this case has gotten," he said outside the courthouse.

Bergen County prosecutor John Molinelli said his office would oppose a change in venue. Judges don't often grant such requests; a notable exception was the 2004 manslaughter trial of former basketball star Jayson Williams, which was moved from Hunterdon County to Somerset County because of excessive pretrial publicity.

Graziano is charged with nine counts of attempted murder as well as bias intimidation, arson and aggravated arson. Since the attempted murder involved more than five people - a rabbi, his wife and children and his parents were living above a synagogue in Rutherford that was attacked on Jan. 11 - the maximum sentence is upgraded to life in prison with no parole for 30 years, the same as a murder charge.

It isn't clear what the motive was. Bergen County prosecutor John Molinelli said Wednesday that investigators hadn't found any indication that Graziano belonged to any extremist groups but had evidence that he shared his views with other people, though he didn't specify in what forum. He characterized Graziano as intelligent and aware of what was happening to him.

Authorities traced the materials in some of the bombs to a Walmart store and captured surveillance images of a man buying the materials, later identified by tipsters as Graziano, who apparently had spoken to others about the attacks.

"A lot of people knew that he had done it," Molinelli said.


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