LAKEWOOD, NJ – The rising tide of anti-Jewish sentiment around Lakewood Township is growing, fueled in part by anti-Jewish rhetoric on social media and anti-Jewish websites that promote negativity towards Jewish residents.
Although the Attorney General of New Jersey and the Justice Department is cracking down on the rising tide anti-Jewish sentiment in the county, some are taking things too far, including a Howell man who threatened to go to Lakewood to beat Jews with a baseball bat.
“Ocean County First Assistant Prosecutor Michael T. Nolan, Jr. announced that on August 7, 2020, Anthony Lodespoto, 43, of Howell, pled guilty to Bias Intimidation in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1 before the Honorable Guy P. Ryan, J.S.C. At the time of his sentencing on September 25, 2020, the State will be seeking a sentence of 180 days in the Ocean County Jail as a condition of Probation. Lodespoto remains lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending sentencing,” the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office said today.
On March 26, 2020, the Lakewood Township Police Department Detective Bureau was made aware that Lodespoto had made threatening statements by way of the direct messaging feature of Facebook against the Jewish community of Lakewood. On March 27, 2020, Detectives were informed by members of the New Jersey State Police that Lodespoto sent a similar message to the Facebook account of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. The threats largely consisted of Lodespoto threatening to travel to Lakewood with the purpose of assaulting members of the Jewish community with a baseball bat.
The rising anti-Jewish sentiment is being fueled online by a two-time convict who runs a website dedicated to making the Jewish community look bad on a daily basis. Richard Ciullo, the operator of the website was recently sentenced to jail for fraud, but throughout the process, maintains a website that criticizes the Orthodox Jewish community on a daily basis for nearly two full years. Ciullo was ordered by the state to serve weekends in the Ocean County Jail this spring.
On April 2019, the Director of our Division on Civil Rights, Rachel Wainer Apter, sent a letter to Facebook expressing concerns with a page on the company’s social network operated by Ciullo.
“We had serious concerns with racist and anti-Semitic statements on the page, including an explicit goal of preventing Orthodox Jews from moving to Ocean County, and we made clear our view that the page appeared to violate Facebook’s terms of service. We have continued to follow up with Facebook since that initial letter in April, and we renewed our concerns as recently as this week,” Governor Phil Murphy said. “We appreciate that Facebook has taken some steps to address anti-Semitic content on the page, but much more can be done, and we believe that Facebook must make lasting reforms to stop the spread of hate on the Internet. The Murphy Administration will continue to call out hate whenever and wherever we see it, and we will continue working to make New Jersey a safe and inclusive place for all of our residents.”
Last year, in Jackson Township, two Jackson teens were charged for trying to run over Jewish men walking during the Sabbath.
Ciullo has been working hard to rebuild his hate organization, despite being shut down on several social media platforms. GoDaddy, the hosting provider for his website has so far refused to take action to curb Ciullo’s hateful messages that have led to violence and threats against Jews, multiple reporters in the media and anyone who disagrees with his anger against the Jewish community.
Ciullo was evicted from a home where he was allegedly squatting earlier this year but maintains a loyal following as he continues his crusade to eradicate the growth of Orthodox Jewish residents in towns surrounding Lakewood. Ciullo was a former School Board member in Berkeley Township before his first fraud conviction which got him blacklisted by the Ocean County Republican Party several years ago.