A Howell man sent Facebook messages to Gov. Phil Murphy and others threatening to go to Lakewood with a baseball bat and assault members of the Orthodox community for violating the governor’s coronavirus restrictions, authorities charged.
Anthony Lodespoto, 43, of Howell, remained held Saturday in the Ocean County Jail in Toms River pending a detention hearing on charges of making terroristic threats during a state of emergency, records show.
Lodespoto “made threatening statements by way of the direct messaging feature of Facebook against the Jewish community of Lakewood,” Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and Lakewood Police Chief Gregory Meyer said in a joint release.
He also “sent a similar message to the Facebook account of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy,” they said.
The threats, they said, “largely consisted of Lodespoto threatening to travel to Lakewood with the purpose of assaulting members of the Jewish community with a baseball bat.”
Authorities have broken up several weddings and other large gatherings in Lakewood while issuing summonses to the hosts since Murphy issued an executive order aimed at stemming the spread of COVID-19.
“Employing a public health crisis and worldwide pandemic as an excuse to propagate hate and fear is unconscionable,” Billhimer said. “This behavior is contrary to law and will not be tolerated.
“I am keenly aware these are extraordinarily stressful times, but that does not give anyone license to engage in violent behavior or threaten to commit violent acts.”
The messages sent by Lodespoto “were not an exercise in free speech” the prosecutor added. “Rather, they exhibited an abhorrence to the values of a free and civilized society.”
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