Anti-Semitic graffiti tagger faces jail time
A Bed-Stuy man who once rocketed from the foster care system to a political internship in Manhattan is now facing up to 25 years in prison for anti-Semitic crimes in Williamsburg and Prospect Heights.
James Polite was indicted on Wednesday for scrawling anti-Semitic messages such as “End is Now” on several floors of the Union Temple of Brooklyn at 17 Eastern Parkway on Nov. 1 and breaking into a yeshiva on Hewes Street the next day and setting a coat room on fire, prosecutors said.
“These alleged bias-motivated crimes are disheartening and undermine the values that we hold dear in our community,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “In Brooklyn, people of all faiths, cultures, ethnicities and races should feel safe.”
After Polite was caught on camera at a gas station getting matches, he was seen on surveillance video at the yeshiva on Hewes Street, prosecutors said.
The alleged firebug was arrested after he was seen by witnesses setting a trash car on fire on Ross Street in Williamsburg. Police were called, and the responding officers recognized Polite as the suspect wanted for the hate crimes.
Prior to these accusations, Polite, who suffers from bipolar disorder, was shuffled throughout the city’s foster care system as a youth, struggled to graduate Brandeis University in Massachusetts with a marijuana habit and interned for Christine Quinn the former City Council Speaker, according to The New York Times.
Before Polite turned 21 — the age limit to get phased out of the foster care system — the Children’s Aid Society took over his case. He built a relationship with Brooklyn couple Josh Waletzky and Jenny Levison, who wanted were looking to care for an aging out foster care youth that identifies as LGBTQ, according The New York Times. Polite, who identifies as queer, fit that description.
Polite was remanded by Justice Danny Chun for second-degree arson as a hate crime, third-degree burglary as a hate crime, second-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime and other related charges.
According to court records, Polite is housed in the Brooklyn Detention Center. Since 2011, the Department of Corrections has experienced an increase of inmates with mental illness and has teamed up with the city’s Health + Hospitals to improve health services for them, according to the DOC.