NYC Council Candidate Avoids Jail Time for Sparking COVID Riot Over Virus Rules

Harold "Heshy" Tischler pled guilty to charges in court on Friday in connection to a violent attack against a local journalist during a COVID protest last fall

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A New York City political candidate who led protests against coronavirus restrictions in Brooklyn last fall will avoid jail time after pleading guilty Friday to a charge of inciting a riot.

Harold “Heshy” Tischler was sentenced to 10 days of community service for egging on a crowd of men that chased and trapped a journalist during the Oct. 7 protest in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park.

Tischler, the same unmasked heckler who wreaked havoc at a health officials' briefing in a Brooklyn hotspot two weeks earlier, had also been charged with menacing and harassment.

Kornbluh, a reporter for Jewish Insider, said he was attacked the night of Oct. 7 in Borough Park while he was reporting on the protest against New York City's latest restrictions on COVID-19 hotspots -- and that Tischler was the one who sparked it.

Tischler, an activist and City Council candidate, posted a video on Twitter after his court appearance Friday praising his lawyers who “saved me” and showing himself behind the counter with supporters at a local pizza parlor.

Kornbluh tweeted that he welcomed Tischler's acknowledgment in court "that he incited a riot against me and has been held accountable for his actions. I am looking forward to continuing my work in journalism undeterred.”

Protests erupted in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood Tuesday and Wednesday night after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced new restrictions on schools, businesses and houses of worship in some parts of the city and state. NBC New York's Ray Villeda and Checkey Beckford report.

Video shows a crowd of men, egged on by Tischler, surrounding, jostling and taunting Jewish Insider journalist Jacob Kornbluh, who has been reporting on resistance to social distancing in the neighborhood. Tischler, who was not wearing a mask, can be seen screaming in Kornbluh's face. Kornbluh, who is also an Orthodox Jew, said he was struck and kicked during the incident.

Tischler, who has been caught on camera making abusive remarks about the mayor's wife and others, later accused Kornbluh of "crying wolf." The judge at his arraignment hearing granted an order of protection for the reporter against Tischler, who is not allowed to contact Kornbluh in any manner — both in person or online, which includes someone else contacting Kornbluh on his behalf.

Tischler’s attorney Abraham Hoschander protested against the judge implementing the order of protection against his client, saying he “poses no danger whatsoever.”

Tischler had called his arrest a “political stunt” on Twitter. He has said he believed his interactions with Kornbluh were protected by the First Amendment.

"This is definitely a witch hunt, something done by Mayor de Blasio who has been picking on the Jewish community without rhyme or reason," attorney Hoschander said.

The encounter with Kornbluh happened as large protests erupted in Borough Park following Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reinstatement of COVID restrictions on schools, businesses and houses of worship in areas where infection rates have soared.

Most of the areas facing the harshest restrictions are home to large Orthodox Jewish populations; religious leaders have complained of being singled out. The spike in cases coincided with the back-to-back Jewish holidays in late September.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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