NJ Judge Denies Bail to Teen Accused of Directing Synagogue Vandalism


Photo Credit: Google Maps

Temple Jacob in Hancock, Michigan, was targeted in Tobin’s ‘Operation Kristallnacht.’

A New Jersey teenager accused of directing the online hate group “Great Lakes Cell” to “tag the [expletive]” out of two synagogues in the Midwest, will remain in federal custody while his case is being prepared, NJ.com reported Tuesday.

Richard Tobin, 18, of Brooklawn, Camden County, was arrested in mid-November when he was sitting in his car at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, holding a machete. The FBI filed a criminal complaint against Tobin, for allegedly directing members of the Great Lakes cell to deface synagogues in the Midwest with neo-Nazi slogans and insignia in what he dubbed “Operation Kristallnacht,” a reference to the Nazi November 9-10 pogroms in 1938 Germany.


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On September 21, a synagogue in Hancock, Michigan, was smeared with swastikas and SS symbols. On September 22, a synagogue in Racine, Wisconsin, was defaced with an anti-Semitic slogan and the insignia associated with The Base, a neo-nazi network which reproduces Nazi symbols commemorating Hitler’s failed 1923 Munich Beer Hall uprising.

According to the FBI’s complaint, a group Tobin was associated with, the White Protection League, discussed “the recruitment of prospective members, the creation of a white ethno-state, acts of violence against minorities (including African-Americans and Jewish-Americans) […] military training camps, and ways to make improvised explosive devices (IED),” over “online platforms and encrypted online messaging applications and chat rooms.”

According to the complaint, Tobin admitted to organizing the anti-Semitic vandalism, admitted his membership in the neo-nazi group, suggested it would be “pretty straightforward” to imitate Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City, and shared his plans to eventually die in a “suicide-by-cop,” or, as he put it, he planned to go out in a “blaze of glory.”

Last Friday, Tobin appeared before US Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams in Camden federal court, where Assistant US Attorney Kristen Harberg told the judge there were no conditions that could reasonably guarantee both Tobin’s appearing in court and the safety of the community while he was out. Harberg also filed documents that showed “strong” evidence against Tobin, and so Judge Williams promptly denied his request to be released on bail pending a mental health evaluation, remanding him to jail.


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