Palm Beach County sheriff, prosecutors look to eliminate ‘evil’ antisemitic acts
Authorities in Palm Beach County are looking to find and prosecute those responsible for recent antisemitic acts and hope the teeth of a new state law will be a deterrent for these groups.
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, State Rep. Mike Caruso, R-Delray Beach and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw were among those who spoke at a Tuesday morning news conference.
Prosecutors and law enforcement said they want the public to be aware of House Bill 269, which includes provisions that prohibit individuals from displaying or projecting images onto a building, structure or property without permission.
"These people come in from out of state, and they think Florida is welcoming them, but the opposite is true," Aronberg said. "There is no place for hate in our state, especially in our community."
Calling them cowards, the state attorney said those who commit these racist acts often "slink away in the dark of night" while wearing masks to hide their identity.
Aronberg said when they are arrested, this "small pathetic group" acts very differently in court than when they are on the streets.
"They know if they do this stuff here in Palm Beach County, we will find them, we will charge them, we will prosecute them and we will convict them because we've done so already," Aronberg said.
The state attorney said no one has been charged under the new state law in Palm Beach County as they seek to identify and locate the people responsible who distributed antisemitic material at Wellington homes this month. He is asking anyone from the public who can help in the case to come forward.
"We want to use the new arrows in our quiver," Aronberg said referring to the new state law.
Aronberg and Bradshaw say a small group of neo-Nazis that relocated from California to Florida are likely responsible for the Wellington incidents. They believe these incidents were timed to precede the Jewish holidays.
The state attorney believes members of that group also passed out similar flyers in other neighborhoods over the past year, and once projected a Nazi symbol onto a downtown West Palm Beach office building.
"I don't want to give them credit for saying their name," Aronberg, who believes the group is still planning on littering communities with more propaganda, said. "They know about the new laws. They wear their masks. That's why they slink in under the cover of darkness and do it at night."
Caruso, who filed HB 269, referenced his disgust for the recent antisemitic acts in South Florida and across the state.
"This has to stop," Caruso said. "HB 269 directly confronts these actions, which when carried out by an individual with religious or ethnic intimidation, threat or intent to harm, raises the offense to that of a hate crime, punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines."
Before the statute passed, Aronberg said he could only prosecute one man for passing out neo-Nazi literature and could only charge him with littering. That man, Nicholas Bysheim of Maryland, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and is on probation for a year.
Caruso believes that those responsible for these acts are testing the new law and the resolve of law enforcement.
The state representative said he felt confident that Aronberg and Bradshaw are ready to bring to justice those responsible for these hateful acts, including the groups who "conspire, finance, organize and train" them.
Bradshaw applauded the new law, which received unanimous support in both the Florida House and Senate, calling it "tools to work with" and said it was "much appreciated and needed."
Calling the people who commit these acts "evil" and "domestic terrorists," the sheriff pleaded for the public to notify law enforcement if they experience these antisemitic acts, saying they could do so anonymously by calling them or Crime Stoppers.
"We can't do something about something that we don't know about," Bradshaw said. "The public and their awareness and giving us the information is very, very important."
He said this was the time to draw a line in the sand to stamp out the hateful acts.
"When they're done with the Jewish population, who's next? The Hispanics?" Bradshaw asked. "And then when they're done with them, they're going to [target] the African Americans. Where does it stop?"
Bradshaw sternly said these acts will not be tolerated in Palm Beach County.
"If you come to Palm Beach County, and you [commit antisemitic acts], I will put your butt in jail," Bradshaw said. "I don't care if it's 20 people or 200. I'll load those corrections buses up."
Aronberg said evidence such as Ring doorbell camera video can be used to file charges against suspects in these cases.
The new law makes these acts a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail. If the litter contains a credible threat, the act is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
"This kind of conduct will never be tolerated in Palm Beach County," Aronberg said.
Those scared of retribution can remain anonymous by calling the numbers below:
Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County: 1-800-458-TIPS (8477)
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Tipline: 561-227-6464
People may also call 911 to report incidents of antisemitism or to pass on tips.
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