A Pennsylvania man accused of ransacking a Beverly Hills synagogue and damaging several Jewish relics has been charged with felony vandalism and accused of a hate crime, prosecutors said Monday.
Anton Nathaniel Redding, 24, pleaded not guilty to one count of felony vandalism, one count of second-degree burglary and denied his role in the alleged hate crime, officials said.
If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum of six years in state prison.
According to Beverly Hills police, on Dec. 14 Redding forced his way into the Nessah Synagogue and ransacked it, shredding prayer books, overturning chairs and tossing blue and white tallits and kippahs on the floor. The vandalism was discovered by a synagogue employee.
“When my husband came home and told me what happened, I was shocked. The whole community was shocked,” Simin Imanuel, a longtime congregant, told The Times after the incident.
The attack came at a time when the community is especially alert to anti-Semitic violence.
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Hate crimes in Los Angeles County have reached their highest point in nearly a decade, according to an annual report by the L.A. County Commission on Human Relations. Although religious crimes overall declined slightly, anti-Jewish crimes rose 14% and constituted 83% of religion-motivated crimes.
Earlier this month, two shooters killed three people at a Jewish grocery store, in addition to a police officer at a cemetery about a mile away. In April, a shooting at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego County came exactly six months after 11 people were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
At a community town hall at the Beverly Hilton last week after the vandalism, police received a standing ovation when they announced Redding’s arrest. He was located in Hawaii.
Redding is due back in court Jan. 30.