NEW YORK (JTA) — A Brooklyn woman who made headlines for slapping three Jewish women in December — and then quickly being released from jail — has been charged with federal hate crimes.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced the Justice Department’s decision to charge Tiffany Harris in a meeting Tuesday morning with Jewish leaders in Brooklyn at which he pledged “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism.
“These are the kinds of cases that maybe in the past would have been treated locally, but I think it’s important for the federal government to plant its flag,” Barr said at the meeting. “We will move aggressively when we see this kind of activity.”
Harris has emerged as a flashpoint in the debate over a bail reform law that went into effect Jan. 1 in New York state. The law, which prohibits bail requirements for most nonviolent and minor offenses, was intended to ensure that defendants are not treated differently based on their financial means.
Harris’ arrests — after her release, she was arrested again for assault — took place before the law went into effect. Still, politicians who oppose the law have cited the 30-year-old woman in making the case that judges should have discretion to impose bail requirements.
“A bigger, stronger example should have been made of this violent anti-Semitic criminal, not the opposite,” Lee Zeldin, a Republican Jewish congressman from Long Island, said earlier this month.
That appears to be happening with the federal charges, which come amid Barr’s “zero tolerance” pledge and as the New York Police Department seeks ways to circumvent the bail law.
“I am appalled that Tiffany Harris is being used as a scapegoat for the fear-mongering surrounding bail reform,” Lisa Schreibersdorf, Harris’ lawyer, told the New York Daily News on Tuesday.