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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Arrest in Lakewood rabbi beating case

From the Asbury Park Press:
Police have arrested a suspect and charged him with attempted murder of an Orthodox rabbi and schoolteacher, who was viciously beaten with an aluminum baseball bat the night of Oct. 9 while walking to synagogue to pray.

Lee Tucker, 37, of Ventura Drive is charged in the attack on Rabbi Mordechai Moskowitz, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and unlawful possession of a weapon. Tucker was being held at the Ocean County Jail, Toms River, on $375,000 bail, Detective Lt. Joseph Isnardi said.

Tucker was arrested Wednesday afternoon near the Lakewood Community Center, about eight blocks from Princeton Avenue and Carey Street, where the attack occurred.

Moskowitz, 53, of Lakewood, is a third-grade teacher at Lakewood Cheder School, Detective Steve Wexler said. He remains hospitalized in a rehabilitation center for injuries to his face and head.

Moskowitz's nephew, Moshe Rothberg of Lakewood, called the arrest like having a huge weight lifted from the family. Rothberg said the attack had taken a terrible toll on the family, and speculation that it was a bias attack made dealing with it even more difficult.

"We were focusing on him getting better," Rothberg said. "The last thing we wanted it to be was bias. You don't want to think that someone has so much hate that they would do that."

Police had said from the start that they did not believe the attack to be based on bias, although they have not established what the motive might have been, Isnardi said.

Rothberg praised the Police Department and particularly Chief Robert C. Lawson, who worked with the family, assuring them that detectives would solve the crime, Rothberg said.

"He answered every question and had said he strongly believed it was not a bias incident," Rothberg said of Lawson. "The detectives were working double shifts, and now we can finally rest. They went way beyond the call of duty."

Police developed additional leads on Tucker after the Vaad — Lakewood's Council of Orthodox Leaders — and the Anti-Defamation League offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction, Isnardi said. People came forward with pieces of information, Isnardi said.

Sometimes it appears that people bend over backwards to deny bias - not because of the facts but because they don't want to deal with the reaction.

As I mentioned previously, one news outlet reported that the attacker was yelling "Jew! Jew!" during the attack. And, interestingly, the Asbury Press article declines to identify the race of the accused attacker - a somewhat relevant fact if it was a bias crime. (He is black.)