LAKEWOOD, NJ (VINnews) — A Howell Township man sent messages threatening to beat members of the Lakewood Jewish community with a baseball bat through Facebook to multiple people on Thursday, including one to the account of Gov. Phil Murphy, authorities said Friday.
Anthony Lodespoto, 43, was arrested Friday afternoon at his Dutch Valley Road home, Lakewood police and Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer said. He has been charged with making terroristic threats during a state of emergency, Billhimer said.
On March 26, 2020, the Lakewood Township Police Department Detective Bureau was made aware that Lodespoto had made threatening statements by way of the direct messaging feature of Facebook against the Jewish community of Lakewood.
On March 27, 2020, Detectives were informed by members of the New Jersey State Police that Lodespoto sent a similar message to the Facebook account of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.
The threats largely consisted of Lodespoto threatening to travel to Lakewood with the purpose of assaulting members of the Jewish community with a baseball bat. Lodespoto was arrested without incident at his residence in Howell. He is currently lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending a detention hearing.
Lodespoto is accused of making the threats over incidents where some members of the town have not complied with Murphy’s orders banning gatherings of more than 10 people and to stay at home as part of statewide efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, Capt. Gregory Staffordsmith said.
Prosecutor Billhimer and Chief Meyer would like to acknowledge the fine work of the Lakewood Township Police Department Detective Bureau and the New Jersey State Police for their collaborative efforts in this investigation.
“As Chief Law Enforcement Officer of Ocean County, it is my sworn duty to enforce the law and protect all of our residents,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.
“To that end, employing a public health crisis and worldwide pandemic as an excuse to propagate hate and fear is unconscionable. 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 statements made by this individual were not an exercise in free speech; rather, they exhibited an abhorrence to the values of a free and civilized society,” Prosecutor Billhimer concluded.