Two 19-year-old men have entered pleas of “not guilty” in connection with a wild night of painting anti-Semitic and other racist graffiti throughout the Boston suburb of Wellesley on the eve of Yom Kippur.
Craig Cooper of Wellesley and Bickford White Jr. of Natick were arrested after stakeouts late Monday and early Tuesday.
The pair were charged with one count of willful and malicious destruction of property. That could change, however, to 27 counts, because of the number of acts of vandalism.
The splurge of racist epithets, spray-painted on streets, homes, mailboxes and cars, took place at about 3 a.m. Sunday, hours before the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar began.
A shopping arcade under construction also was defaced.
About 90 percent of the graffiti were pointedly anti-Semitic, even in areas that had no tangible connection to Jewish life, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith reported.
The crime is a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison, according to police. The pair may also be charged with violations of the federal civil rights laws.
Cooper and White are alleged to have spray-painted signs, cars, houses, stores and buildings in 26 locations throughout Wellesley, a town of 27,000, 15 miles from Boston.
The men have no connection to any anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi or Skinheads group, said Wellesley Detective Pasquale Cerasuolo. He said the men “had no clue” it was before Yom Kippur.
SYNAGOGUE ESCAPES DAMAGE
“I hate niggers, cops, Jews, chinks, spics,” read one sign about 50 yards from Rabbi Ronald Weiss’ home. Weiss is religious leader of the town’s only synagogue, Temple Beth Elohim, which was, ironically, not defaced.
Swastikas with dollar signs, “Hitler’s Children,” “Nazi Youth” and “ZOG,” for Zionist Occupational Government, were some of the graffiti Wellesley residents woke up to Sunday morning.
In nearby towns, there were also graffiti. In the wooded suburb of Dover, where mansions sit on acres of land, the three-car garage of a very large two-story home was covered with swastikas and the word “Hate.” Ethnic slurs covered the driveway and the street.
White, one of the two arrested, grew up in that house until moving in 1984, according to Dover Police Sgt. Jeffrey Farrell.
“We are absolutely desolate that this has happened,” Margaret White, the suspect’s step mother, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
“We are sorry we offended anybody. His sister is married to a Jewish man; we have many Jewish friends.” She called his act “just a wild prank.”
She said her stepson, a part-time college student, only wanted “a grab for attention.” He has no previous criminal record, she said.
Warren Cooper, the other suspect’s father, did not wish to comment.
Wellesley was the scene of another anti-Semitic incident two weeks ago. Swastikas painted in a Wellesley College building two days before Rosh Hashanah set the campus on edge, according to the Wellesley News.
In July, anti-Semitic graffiti was painted on several Jewish buildings and some cars in Marble head, about 50 miles from Wellesley.
ADL is alarmed at the sharp rise of racist incidents in Massachusetts. Such incidents during the summer alone outnumbered those perpetrated in all of 1988.
ADL and other observers of hate groups are baffled by the rise, particularly in Massachusetts, which reportedly has the highest employment rate of any industrial state in America.
Leonard Zakim, New England regional director of ADL, said it was “chilling” to be in Wellesley on Sunday morning, surrounded by all those defaced homes.
Zakim said Wellesley residents with whom he spoke were very disturbed because of the language chosen by the vandals, which was “more troubling than a random act of vandalism.”
However, community support has been heartening. Hundreds of local people, including the entire high school football team and the congregations and clergy of the Protestant and Catholic churches, signed a statement deploring the incident and expressing solidarity with the Jews.
(JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum in New York contributed to this report.)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.