Leaders react after man pleads guilty to hate crime involving Toledo-area synagogues – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on May 23, 2021

The executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo and the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League praised the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI for their efforts to apprehend and prosecute Damon M. Joseph, whose alias is Abdullah Ali Yusuf, 23, of Holland, Ohio.

We are grateful for the FBIs work to stop a potential terror attack from occurring at a Toledo, Ohio synagogue, James Pasch, regional director of the Anti-Defamation Leagues Cleveland office, wrote the CJN in a May 19 email. No person should be targeted because of their religion, and we must all work together to stop hate when we see it.

Joseph pleaded guilty May 18 to attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State group and attempting to commit a hate crime for planning an attack on two synagogues in the Toledo area.

Were pleased that he has apparently pled guilty and we look forward to an appropriate sentence, Stephen Rothschild, executive director of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Greater Toledo, told the CJN May 19.

Josephs Jan. 29, 2019, indictment was the first across the country alleging both national security violations and hate crime offenses.

His plea arrangement was made on the final day pleadings were due in his case, dating to his Dec. 7, 2018, arrest which took place after he accepted firearms from an undercover FBI agent following weeks of contact online and in person.

Days after his arrest, 400 people packed Temple Shomer Emunim in Sylvania Township to hear about the plot. Two of Toledos synagogues share a campus with the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo and the merged Jewish Community Center and YMCA.

Sentencing is set for Sept. 14 in front of Judge Jack Zouhary in U.S. District Court in Toledo. The maximum sentence is life in prison for the two counts for which Joseph pleaded guilty. Joseph pleaded not guilty to a third count, possession of firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence.

Joseph was represented by lawyers Neil McElroy and Peter G. Rost, both of Toledo.

Rost told the Cleveland Jewish News the plea arrangement discussed in court would sentence Joseph to 20 years in prison.

However, the judge accepted that plea on a contingency, waiting to see what the pre-sentence report reveals about the background of the case. The court reserved the right to, in the end, not accept the plea, Rost said May 19, adding the case would then proceed to trial.

Rothschild said he hopes the sentence will be sufficient such that if he is ever released, he is not a threat to the Jewish community or any other group in America.

Rothschild was in Toledo at the time of Josephs arrest although he did not work for the Toledo federation.

At that point in time, ISIS was very much in the news on a regular basis than it has been of late, and it was a scary time, he told the CJN. The community was concerned. Id say that was the start of efforts at increased security and vigilance at Jewish institutions in Toledo.

Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan for the Northern District of Ohio called the crime heinous.

This is the first time in this district and the first time in this country that the support was specifically targeted at a minority community, that being the Jewish community in Toledo, Brennan said.

In terms of the sentencing agreement, Brennan said, Joseph is acknowledging that he attempted to commit a civil rights violation, namely using a firearm to kill a rabbi and commit a mass shooting at a Toledo-area synagogue.

Brennan said one charge would bring 15 years and the other would carry 20 years.

Any time a person is targeted, and any time that involves a violation of civil rights, thats going to be taken very seriously by our office and we will pursue those cases in each and every instance, Brennan said.

Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith of the FBIs Cleveland field office spoke of Josephs radicalization over time.

In a matter of months, Damon Joseph progressed from a self-radicalized, virtual jihadist to planning an actual attack on fellow Americans, Smith said in the release. Mr. Joseph has now accepted responsibility for his actions. ... The FBI would like to remind the public to remain vigilant so we can continue to thwart these types of threats together.

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Leaders react after man pleads guilty to hate crime involving Toledo-area synagogues - Cleveland Jewish News

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