Police formally charge suspect in Brooklyn mezuzah arsons with hate crimes

April 12, 2013 3:38:59 AM PDT
Police in Brooklykn have formally charged a suspect in a hate crime investigation involving scorched mezuzahs.

Rubin Ubiles, 35, is charged with burglary, arson and criminal mischief as hate crimes after police say he burned the Jewish holy parchments in two apartment buildings in Willamsburg over a two-day period.

Ubiles was arraigned late Thursday night at Brooklyn criminal court and is being held without bail.

Police say part of the way Ubiles was tracked down was through facial recognition of his ear, caught on the security camera.

They put the photo in the police facial recognition database, which matched Ubiles to an old picture of the side view of his head.

Ubiles is believed to be behind the burning of 12 mezuzahs, which are holy parchments that are symbols of protection. Eleven mezuzahs hanging on residents' doors in an apartment building were scorched Monday, and an additional incident occurred Tuesday.

Ubiles was picked up Wednesday after he appeared on surveillance video at both buildings where the fires were set.

The incidents have struck fear in the Hasidic community, but Ubiles' girlfriend told Eyewitness News reporter Jim Dolan that he was in the library during the time some of the fires were set.

"I couldn't believe that they would actually think that he would do that," she said. "But because he's had trouble with the law in the past, it works against him. You know, I think it's your guilty until proven innocent."

In a rambling diatribe before he was taken into custody, Ubiles took to Facebook to proclaim his innocence. He posted that he believes arson would be a waste of time and that he is friends with Jews.

"I don't like fires," he wrote. "Been threw too many of those to attempt to threaten a community that has not violated me."

Ubiles has an extensive criminal history with more than 50 arrests, most dealing with assault or drug-related offenses. None of the incidents involve hate crimes.