This past year will go down as evidence that the Jewish community is not immune to crime.
The Jewish Exponent has been following a handful of cases of particular interest to readers in the Jewish community. They include a former Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity president facing sexual assault charges, a man who pleaded guilty to urinating on a synagogue, a Jewish woman charged with two counts of homicide and an Israeli flag vandal who continues to elude police.
Here’s a roundup of the latest updates on those cases.
AEPi Sexual Assault Case
Attorneys will argue whether to consolidate the cases of Ari Goldstein, the former president of Temple University’s AEPi chapter facing two sets of sexual assault charges, at a pretrial motion scheduled for March 1.
Goldstein’s defense attorney, Perry de Marco Sr., plans to argue against the motion filed by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office to consolidate the two cases.
Ben Waxman, director of communications for the DA’s office, declined to say why the office filed the motion, but de Marco Sr. offered his own explanation.
“If you got two weak cases, you put them together to try to make one strong case,” de Marco Sr. said. “That’s why you do it, because these are not strong cases.”
De Marco Sr. also said that Goldstein “has been systematically prejudiced in this case from the very beginning,” noting that he was arrested at the airport on his way to a Birthright trip and that the DA’s office had initially asked for his bail to be set at $10 million, which de Marco said is significantly higher than what the guidelines suggest.
“He’s been prejudiced at every turn, and why is that?” De Marco Sr. said. “I don’t know why. Is it because his name is Goldstein? Is that why? Because I haven’t seen this done with anybody else from any other heritage, to be honest with you. Is he being made an example of for some reason, or is he being used for political gain?”
At Temple University, Greek life members have been grappling with campus sexual assault since the investigation and subsequent suspension of the university’s AEPi chapter, WHYY reported on Feb. 16. Greek life chapters have joined efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault on campus, including hosting workshops and speakers on sexual assault and healthy relationships.
“Yes, it’s a stereotype, but it does happen, and it’s a place where things are more likely to happen,” Pi Lambda Phi member Alex Derbyshire told WHYY. “I want to make sure that we’re not playing into that stereotype.”
Judge Vincent Johnson will determine whether to grant a motion to withdraw Sheidali Dzhalilov’s guilty plea at a hearing scheduled for Feb. 28.
On Nov. 8, Dzhalilov pleaded guilty to urinating on the entryway to Congregation Beth Solomon in the early hours of Aug. 13, 2017. He pleaded guilty to charges of ethnic intimidation, desecration of a place of worship and institutional vandalism. He faces as much as 11 years in prison and $22,000 in fines.
Since then, he has acquired a new attorney, Lonny Fish, who has filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea for the charge of ethnic intimidation. Assistant District Attorney Brendan Flynn said the district attorney will oppose the motion.
Fish said he is planning to argue that Dzhalilov was too drunk the night of the incident to have had the malice required for ethnic intimidation. He is not, he emphasized, disputing that Dzhalilov committed the act.
“He is guilty of some offense,” Fish said. “It doesn’t change the offensive nature of it. It doesn’t change any of that. The people that were offended can still be offended by it.”
At the plea hearing on Nov. 8, Johnson asked Dzhalilov a series of questions to determine his competency. Despite that, Fish said that Dzhalilov is not a lawyer and didn’t fully understand.
During the hearing, Flynn provided a summary of the incident at the synagogue and said that tips had identified Dzhalilov as also having a Facebook account under the name Ali Ahiska. On Oct. 17, 2005, this Facebook account shared a video from a page called “Images of Palestine” and wrote, “This video makes me wanna kill every single Jew out there, finish what Hitler couldn’t.”
Ventnor City Murders
Heather Barbera’s initial disposition conference is scheduled for Feb. 21, when the prosecutor and defense attorney will discuss the case and schedule dates for the next steps in the process.
Barbera is facing charges of two counts of first-degree murder, third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and first-degree robbery, stemming from the deaths of her mother, Michelle Gordon, and grandmother, Elaine Rosen, in July.
In October, she was indicted and pleaded not guilty.
Barbera’s uncle, Richard Rosen, discovered his mother and sister’s bodies in their Ventnor City, N.J. condominium. Rosen said in August that he immediately thought his niece had committed the act.
He said Barbera had been living with them for several months, since her second marriage failed.
In 2016, Barbera was charged with assault and defiant trespass.
“They were nice, quiet people. They didn’t bother anyone,” Rosen said. “It was nice of them to even take her in because she had nowhere else to go.”
The Leonard Law Group, which represents Barbera, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Parkway Flag Vandalism
Police are still looking for the person who vandalized the Israeli flag on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway last May.
The DA’s office posted a video of the suspect spraying the flag with a red substance and asked that anyone with information contact Central Detectives at 215-686-3093 or 215-686-3094.
The man originally arrested for the crime, Antoine Guyton, was found not competent to stand for trial.
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