A man who had interned for former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime and making graffiti for allegedly writing, "Die Jew Rats," "Hitler," "End It Now" and "Jew Better Be Ready" inside a Brooklyn synagogue.
Image of suspect in the Union Temple incident (NYPD)
James Polite, 26, was arrested on Friday. The discovery of the graffiti at Union Temple forced the cancellation of a progressive political event and raised more worries about anti-Semitism in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that claimed 11 lives. Polite, who is bipolar, is at Woodhull Hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
In a 2013 DNAinfo article, Polite said that he was kicked out of his home for being gay, and then cycled through a number of foster situations. But he met Quinn at an LGBT rally for Barack Obama in 2007, and she took him under her wing, offering him internships at the Council and later writing him a recommendation to attend Brandeis University, which accepted him.
Quinn recalled in the same article, "Once he got in, I called the school to alert them that I wanted him to be watched out for and taken care of. The school must have been like, ‘Who the hell is this pushy broad?’ But I just didn’t want anything to go badly," and described other ways how she and her staff helped him.
Polite was profiled by the NY Times last December as part of their Neediest Cases series: "Mr. Polite struggled at Brandeis. Smoking marijuana, he said, became a coping mechanism to manage his stress. He had first tried the drug at a foster home in his early teens, but in college his habit grew to three times a day. He was placed on a health leave of absence in late 2015 and required to enter a rehabilitation program. During treatment, he learned he had bipolar disorder, for which he is now medicated."
On Saturday, Quinn released a statement:
The Times reports
I am simply and utterly devastated. Devastated for the Union Temple community and the violation they have experienced due to a vile expression of bigotry and anti-Semitism. It's indefensible. The level of hatred and intolerance that has been rising in this country over the last several years in something every single American should be concerned about and should stand up against. And this is no different.
I know this young man, and along tie many others in the New York City Council and social services agencies throughout the City, have done everything I could over the years to help him as he grew up in and out of the foster system, in and out of the mental health system, and in and out of homelessness. The actions he is accused of break my heart and devastate all of us who tried to help him get on solid footing over the years. And while he has experienced hardship that most people can't eve imagine, his actions are inexcusable. I stand with the Jewish community today and every day, and pray for all New Yorkers who deserve the very basic right to enter their place of worship without fearing for their lives.
that Quinn "customarily checked in with Mr. Polite almost every day" but "began hearing from him less. When she did talk to him, his speech and conversations were incoherent. That meant he was off his medications. And when Mr. Polite was not on his medications, that is when some of his ramblings turned anti-Semitic." Polite allegedly also posted rants on Facebook under a different name.
Friend Tykasia Daniels-Sosa expressed surprise to the Daily News, "I was shocked over what happened. He seemed to be doing good, at least from what he told me." Another friend, Mel Green, said to the News, "It's absolutely the drugs. James would never do this if he wasn't on drugs. He was always standing up for people. He's not hateful or a bigot at all."
Polite was also arrested for arson as a hate crime and criminal mischief for allegedly setting fires both inside a Williamsburg synagogue and outside other Jewish places of worship. According to the Times, "The police recognized Mr. Polite from the surveillance video at Union Temple."