2nd Suspect Pleads Not Guilty To N.J. Synagogue Firebomb Attacks
HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The second man charged in a series of attacks on synagogues in New Jersey is being held on $2.5 million bail.
Aakash Dalal, 19, of New Brunswick, appeared in court in Hackensack on Monday. His lawyer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf to charges including conspiracy, aggravated arson, bias intimidation and criminal mischief.
CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman was at the courthouse where the Rutgers University student, who was arrested Friday, was described by Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli as being an instigator in the January firebombings.
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“Mr. Dalal is being prosecuted more for the use of malicious words than for any criminal behavior,” attorney Chris DeLorenzo.
DeLorenzo maintains that his client was not the mastermind of the attacks as Molinelli has alleged.
“My client being the mastermind, i find to be a ridiculous allegation,” DeLorenzo said.
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While Graziano is accused of actually hurling the device through the window and onto the bed of Rabbi Nosson Schuman in the Rutherford attack, Molinelli said “Mr. Dalal was the teacher” and “Mr. Graziano was the student.”
“It was Mr. Dalal that directed in how to make it, how often to throw it, how to throw it in a way that it would cause the most damage,” Molinelli said.
Investigators traced instant messages and texts between Dalal and Graziano.
In one of the messages, Graziano allegedly told Dalal before the firebombing, “I finally found an all-wood synagogue. Congregation Beth-El in Rutherford.”
After the firebombing, Dalal allegedly wrote “Wow. Nice. I’m looking at the house now.”
In the aftermath of the attacks, Graziano allegedly said, “Dude, the ADL Jew is hilarious. He looks like he’s about to roll over and cry.”
DeLorenzo said Dalal was in New Hampshire at the time of the attacks, volunteering with the Ron Paul campaign, but concedes he was present for two anti-Semitic graffiti incidents at temples in Hackenasck and Maywood in December.
“Being present at the scene of something doesn’t mean you’re acting together,” DeLorenzo said.
Graziano has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of first-degree attempted murder, bias intimidation and aggravated arson.
Authorities said he was also seen on surveillance video buying materials to make a bomb. Mollinelli said Graziano was also trying to acquire a gun.
Police said Dalal and Graziano were childhood friends.
If convicted Graziano and Dalal could each face eighty years in prison.