Israeli to Testify on Youth Who Set Fire to Jewish Center in Yonkers

Zvi Almog, of Tel Aviv, will be brought here at Westchester County’s expense to act as the principal witness against a Yonkers youth accused of having set fire a year ago to the Yonkers Jewish Community Center, causing the death of 12 persons, according to District Attorney Leonard Rubenfeld.

The youth, Thomas A. Ruppert, 17, is in jail, charged with arson and with 24 counts of first degree murder as a result of the tragic incident. Ruppert was at the time a youth corps worker at the Jewish Center. Mr. Almog, then studying for his doctorate in New York, was the Center’s executive director and, with Yonkers police, had questioned Ruppert when the youth was arrested a month after the fire. Since then, Mr. Almog had returned to his home in Tel Aviv.

A county judge has ruled since, that the confession by Ruppert, obtained by police authorities, could not be used when the youth comes to trial, on the grounds that the police had not warned Ruppert of his constitutional rights when he was under interrogation. However, Mr. Rubenfeld insists that Mr. Almog, not being a member of the police force, could act as witness to those confessions, in which Ruppert had allegedly stated he started the fires “for a thrill.”

Ruppert is scheduled to be given a hearing January 9. Mr. Rubenfeld said that the County has arranged to pay for Mr. Almog’s transportation from and back to Israel, plus his hotel expenses, so that he could appear against Ruppert. The youth’s voluntary defense counsel, Mrs. Eleanor J. Piel, has objected to Mr. Almog’s expected testimony, charging that he had acted as a party to “the plot” by police to obtain the Ruppert confession.

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