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Hate Crime? Four Arizona Teens Arrested for Turning Menorah Into Swastika

© Photo : PixabayHandcuffed
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Four arrests have been made in connection with an incident in late 2016 in which a Jewish family’s Hanukkah decoration was distorted into a swastika. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looking into whether or not the vandalism constitutes a hate crime.

Under Arizona law, these are both Class 6 felonies, the least serious classification. Most Class 6 felonies are punished with one to two years in prison. It is possible for the court to decide to try the defendants as if they committed a misdemeanor instead, but as they have been charged with an aggravated crime — meaning the damage done was lesser than the intent of the crime — that is unlikely to occur.

​Arizona law sharply increases sentencing time for past offenders. Class 6 felonies can be punished with up to 6 years in prison if the convicted has two or more prior convictions. It is likely that the three juveniles will be tried as adults.

The suspects were detained, processed, and then released pending the submission of charges to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. CPD spokesman Kevin Quinn has announced that the investigation is still ongoing.

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The menorah was built by a local Jewish family, the Ellises. In the dead of night, the menorah's joints were unscrewed and locked back in the shape of a swastika.

"We live in a great neighborhood with kind and welcoming neighbors," wrote Naomi Ellis in a Facebook post. "However, this morning we were greeted with this horrible act of aggression. This clear act of hate and racism is disturbing and sad."

Naomi and her husband Seth took the defaced menorah down with the help of a CPD officer before their sons aged 5, 6 and 9 saw it. "Just waking up to see that first thing is kind of rattling," said Seth Ellis, who built the menorah. "It just makes me sad and it makes me feel sick that's still how people look at the world in 2016."

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The incident attracted national attention. The Ellis family rebuilt the menorah and more than 100 locals gathered to watch them relight it.

"This is the real reality that we live in: People hate us for no reason or want us to feel scared for who we are," said Naomi Ellis to Pilot Online. That's not something I wanted to have to tell them."

Wilson's twitter feed contains no mentions of anti-Semitism. It primarily consists of memes, photos of him with his friends, and content related to cars and hip hop.

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