(LOS ANGELES) — Antisemitic hate incidents have plagued Los Angeles County since Hamas launched a surprise terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Tuesday charges against two men, Klinton Allister Dion and Jarris Jay Silagi, for alleged antisemitic hate crimes, including vandalism and assault.
“The escalating wave of antisemitic attacks against the Jewish community will not be tolerated in Los Angeles County,” Gascón said. “We have a zero tolerance for such behavior and our Hate Crimes Unit will work diligently to continue prosecuting such crimes.”
According to the district attorney’s office, Dion is charged with two counts of vandalism of religious property as a hate crime and 10 counts of hate crime by displaying Nazi symbols, etc.
According to the district attorney’s office, Dion was allegedly linked to vandalism of Nazi symbols including swastikas, the Iron Cross, and “SS” occurring in late November at a synagogue, an evangelical Christian church, an IHOP, an apartment complex, a bridge, a newspaper stand, and more in Burbank and Glendale.
The district attorney’s office alleges that the vandalism was committed for “intimidating and deterring persons from freely exercising their religious beliefs.”
An arrest warrant has been issued for Dion. If convicted as charged, Dion could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in state prison.
The suspect was not immediately able to be reached for comment.
On Dec. 9, a 75-year-old man and his wife were on their way to observe Shabbat at a synagogue during the Hanukkah holiday when they were attacked in Beverly Hills, according to the district attorney’s office.
Officials say Silagi allegedly ran toward them and struck the man, who was wearing a yarmulke, once on his head with a belt. He allegedly attempted to rob the woman as well.
Silagi was charged with one count of attempted second-degree robbery; one count of elder or dependent adult abuse, infliction of injury; one count of assault with a deadly weapon; and two counts of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury.
If convicted as charged, Silagi will face a maximum sentence of life in prison. His appointed counsel told ABC News that they entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf after “the court declared a doubt of his competency.”
“Like anyone charged with a crime, Mr. Silagi is presumed innocent and entitled to a vigorous defense. We are sensitive to the intense public interest this matter has generated, but caution against a rush to judgment until all the facts are established in court,” said Silagi’s legal representative Greg McCambridge, LA County Head Deputy Public Defender.
Federal and local officials nationwide have warned about tensions from the ongoing war in the Middle East between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas spilling over into the United States.
The war appears to have incited intensifying waves of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other hate incidents across the country.
“Since Oct. 7, though, we’re seeing this – and it’s not just a surge, it’s a hurricane, it’s a tsunami,” said Jeffrey Abrams, Los Angeles Regional Director from the Anti-Defamation League. “What we are seeing unquestionably is an unmasking of hate and antisemitism.”
Los Angeles Police Department alone has recorded a 38% increase in anti-Jewish hate crimes from 2022 to 2023 in a year-to-date comparison. In the same time, LAPD has seen a nearly 57% increase in reported non-crime bias incidents.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have released a new Public Service Announcement regarding the heightened threat environment, particularly regarding lone actors.
“Although this announcement is not in response to any specific plotting activity, these targets likely remain attractive to lone actors inspired by a range of ideologies due to their accessibility and symbolic nature,” the alert read.
“We’re seeing this disturbing uptick in hate crimes. Let me reiterate that hate crimes against any individual group based on their identity, religion, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity will not be tolerated in our county,” Gascón said.
He continued, “I want to assure members of the Jewish community that we stand in solidarity with them, and that we will continue to aggressively prosecute these cases our nation is facing a crisis of hate crime.”
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