Synagogue Firebombings Blamed on Violent Video Games

The suspect's lawyer said his client may have been "taken over" by the games.

By Brian Thompson
|  Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012  |  Updated 5:48 PM EDT
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A 19-year-old has been arrested in two synagogue firebombings in New Jersey. He allegedly hatched his attack plan with items purchased at an area discount store. John Noel reports from Rutherford.

NBC New York

A 19-year-old has been arrested in two synagogue firebombings in New Jersey. He allegedly hatched his attack plan with items purchased at an area discount store. John Noel reports from Rutherford.

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The 19-year-old New Jersey man accused of attacking synagogues with firebombs may have been influenced by violent Xbox video games that exacerbated his mental problems, his lawyer suggested Tuesday.

Anthony Graziano, of Lodi, N.J., was in court to plead not guilty to new charges in the case. Authorities had already charged him last week with first-degree attempted murder, bias intimidation and aggravated arson, among other charges, for two attacks on synagogues.

On Tuesday, prosecutors added charges for a third synagogue.

His lawyer, Robert Kalisch, spoke outside court and described his client as someone with mental health issues who had few friends and played violent games on his Xbox.

"This is someone who may be, with their own problems they have within their own head, been taken over by these games that young people play now -- lots of violence, lots of meanness," Kalisch said.

Kalisch did not specify which games Graziano played. He said Graziano's mental health history includes an episode last November when he called for an ambulance to come to his home, telling EMS workers that he was "feeling crazy or something."

He was taken to the hospital and doctors recommended he see a psychiatrist.

"When you have emotional, psychiatric, psychological problems, and you get involved in these games, the whole aura of it pervades and it's not a game anymore. It becomes reality," Kalisch said.

Assistant Prosecutor Martin Delaney did not talk after court but told the judge Tuesday, while arguing against a reduction in bail, that Graziano was "hell-bent on destruction and murder."

No one was seriously injured when several objects, including a rigged aerosol can and a Molotov cocktail, were thrown into a Rutherford synagogue on Jan. 11, but one of the devices crashed through a residential window at about 4:30 a.m., burning a rabbi on the hand. His wife, five children and mother- and father-in-law escaped unscathed.

The building houses Congregation Beth El, a school, and a residence where Rabbi Nosson Schuman lives with his family.

The other two attacks also occurred in early January.

Graziano's bail was reduced from $5 million to $2.5 million. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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