Man arrested over Facebook threat against Jews in Lakewood
LAKEWOOD — A Howell man's Facebook comments got him arrested on after police said he threatened to harm Jewish residents with a baseball bat.
Anthony Lodespoto, 43, of Howell, posted messages on his Facebook page Thursday and Friday threatening to travel to Lakewood and to assault members of the Jewish community with a bat, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer.
State Police said Lodespoto posted a similar message on the Facebook page of Gov. Phil Murphy.
Lodespoto was arrested at his home on Dutch Valley Road on Friday afternoon, according to Lakewood police. He was charged with making terroristic threats during a state of emergency and is being held at the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing.
State law makes such a charge a second-degree crime during a declared county, state or national emergency.
"I am keenly aware these are extraordinarily stressful times, but that does not give anyone license to engage in violent behavior or threaten to commit violent acts," Billhimer said in a written statement. "The statements made by this individual were not an exercise in free speech; rather, they exhibited an abhorrence to the values of a free and civilized society."
The arrest came as Murphy and State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan defended Lakewood for the second day in a row against harassment and discrimination following several violations during the week of an emergency order banning gatherings of any type.
Lakewood is home to a large community of observant Jews, and backlash on social media has often been specific to the Jewish community there.
Callahan said that he and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal spoke over the phone on Friday with Lakewood's mayor, Billhimer and religious leaders to discuss compliance with the order.
Callahan said "99.9% of the residents of Lakewood and throughout New Jersey are complying with the aspects of this."
People harassing minorities will be "caught will be prosecuted to the fullest extent allowed by law," Callahan said.