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Rutherford Synagogue Firebomb Suspect May Have Tried To Buy Weapons Before Arrest

Authorities To Sweep All Synagogues Within A 10 Mile Radius Of Anthony Graziano's Home
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Anthony Graziano, 19, of Lodi, NJ is accused of hurling firebombs at two synagogues. (credit: Bergen County Prosecutor's Office)

Anthony Graziano, 19, of Lodi, NJ is accused of hurling firebombs at two synagogues. (credit: Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office)

HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The New Jersey teenager accused of allegedly trying to kill a rabbi and his family in a firebomb attack at a Bergen County synagogue pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports

Anthony Graziano, 19, is charged with nine counts of first-degree attempted murder as well as bias intimidation and aggravated arson. Graziano appeared in court wearing shackles and showing no emotion.

“This is still America, he’s not guilty until he’s proven guilty,” said Graziano’s public defender Robert Kalisch.

Earlier Wednesday, CBS 2 learned that Graziano may have been planning even more mayhem. Graziano had a gun purchaser identification card that allows people under 21 to buy a shotgun or rifle for hunting. Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli confirmed that saying Graziano did, in fact, possess a gun purchasing identification.

“Someone like Mr. Graziano, let’s just say it’s probably best we did make the arrest when we did,” Molinelli told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.

Reliable sources told CBS 2 Graziano may have tried to purchase weapons but was arrested before he could.

Local authorities are also using dogs to sweep all Bergen County synagogues within a ten mile radius of Graziano’s home for flammables and accelerants. Molinelli called the sweep precautionary, and said they’ll take place over the next two days.  Those searches will also continue Thursday, bringing a relief to those in the community.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney On The Story

Police released surveillance video of a person of interest last week and after several tips and a search of Graziano’s home, police arrested him.

Prosecutors say the video was the clue they needed to find and arrest Graziano for the attempted murder of Rabbi Nossom Schuman and his family inside Congregation Beth El. They say Graziano used a computer search program to find synagogues close enough to his home so he could ride his bicycle to stage the attacks.

“The arson and attempted murder in Rutherford are directly the result of Mr. Graziano’s hatred of people of the Jewish faith,” Molinelli said Tuesday.

Quick police work led detectives to their suspect. The day of the fiery attack, they canvassed stores that sold all of the items used to make Molotov cocktails and say the surveillance video shows Graziano buying a six-pack of sodas. Officials say six Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Rutherford temple and one landed on the rabbi’s bed.

“I’ve been crying all day,” the suspect’s father Anthony Graziano said Tuesday night. “I don’t know what to do, what to say, what to do.”

Graziano’s father says his Catholic-raised son does not harbor any hate and told Hennessey on Wednesday that his son was not “mentally capable” of such acts and that he wants him evaluated.

“He does not hate Jewish people,” he said.

But some of Graziano’s friends disagree. One, who did not want to be identified, told CBS 2 “for the past two months, he’s been talking about how much he hates Jews because they were going to take over the country. This kid is crazy. He’s insane.”

He is being held on $5 million bail with no option to post 10-percent to a bail bondsman. Kalisch said he will ask for lower bail and a change of venue due to all of the publicity.

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