Vandalism suspect said he knew neighbours were Jewish by ‘way they spoke’

(JTA) – The neighbour of a Staten Island family reportedly admitted he painted a swastika on their garage door, telling police he knew the family was Jewish “because of the way they spoke.”

James Rizzo, 37, was arrested Thursday and arraigned the following day in the vandalism earlier that week. He also painted the misspelled slur “Kyke” on the garage.

Rizzo, who lives several houses away from the Calabrese family, was seen on surveillance camera footage vandalizing the white door with black paint.

Prosecutors at his arraignment said Rizzo, who has a criminal record, admitted that he committed the crime, DNAinfo reported. He is charged with two counts of criminal mischief as a hate crime and aggravated harassment and is being held on $10,000 bail. Rizzo’s lawyer says he has mental health issues but refused a psychological examination.

Debra Calabrese, who has lived in the house for 14 years with her husband, who is not Jewish, originally told the local media that she did not plan to paint over the graffiti because she wanted people to see it, despite urging by police to cover it up once their investigation was completed.

Following Rizzo’s arrest, a special clean-up team arrived at the home to power wash and repaint the garage door at the behest of local city councilmen.

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