At an emotionally charged hearing held Monday night at the Lewisboro Town Court, four area teenagers were arraigned on several felony hate crimes.
The charges stem from a vandalism spree that took place late Friday night into early Saturday morning in which the defendants allegedly spray painted swastikas and anti-Semetic slurs on the Elmwood Road home of the Schecter family in Lewisboro.
The four teens – Christopher Grispin and Michael Trapasso, both 17 and from South Salem, Daniel Mitchell, 17, of Cross River, and Michael Skalaski, 18, of Goldens Bridge – were originally charged with second-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime, and third-degree criminal mischief, both felonies. At Monday’s arraignment, Heide Mason, the Westchester County District Attorney Office’s bias unit chief, amended the charges to include first-degree aggravated harassment, also a felony.
The arraignment took place before a packed courtroom and emotions were high as supporters of the Schecter family turned out in force.
Town Justice Susan C. Simon issued Anat Schecter and her four children an order of protection from the four defendants, but many in the court room felt that the teens should also be banned from going back to school, including events such as graduation and the prom.
“My kids are scared to go to school. My son is graduating and if these [defendants] are at the graduation ceremony we won’t…” Schecter said, before trailing off and breaking down into tears as friends came to her side to comfort her.
Simon explained that all she could do is issue the order of protection and that she had no authority over what the school does. However, she warned the defendants that if they violated the order, there would be dire consequences.
“If you violate [the order], you will be right back here on contempt charges and things will be much worse for you,” Simon told them. “I will come out in the middle of the night if I have to if you violate this order of protection.”
Mason contended that the defendants have friends who could possibly pose a threat to the Schecter family and said the teens shouldn’t be trusted.
“They don’t have the impulse control that they should have,” she told the court. “They are cowards and they like to do things in the dark. They think they’re tough, but they’re not.”
According to State Police, the defendants also allegedly spray painted a car in Oakridge Commons and some postal vehicles in Vista.
As of Monday night, only two of the four defendants had yet to obtain council; however, Simon noted that no pleas could be taken in her court.
“We cannot take pleas on felony charges. It’s beyond our jurisdiction,” she said. “This is merely an arraignment.”
The defendants are due back in court on July 11.