— Barry Morrison, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Eastern PA, Delaware and Southern New Jersey district office, says the recent ethnic intimidation episode at an area camp — although sad and disturbing — is unlikely to recur.
The story made headlines and television news shows across the country yesterday after three young adults were arrested and jailed on numerous felony and misdemeanor charges for three separate incidents that occurred July 14 and 15.
Two juveniles are also awaiting charges in the case.
The three adults involved in the incident are 18-year-old Tyler Cole Spencer of Linden, Tenn., Mark Trail, 21, from Bethany and Cassandra Robertson, 18, of Honesdale.
The charges include Institutional Vandalism, Riot, Criminal Trespass, Criminal Mischief, Stalking, Simple Assault, Reckless Endangerment, Disorderly Conduct and Ethnic Intimidation.
The charges stem from a series of events in which the five defendants drove through Camp Bonim in Clinton Township at high rates of speed in a large pickup truck, tearing up fields and other open areas and damaging other property, as well as chasing campers and councilors with the truck and shooting at them with a paintball gun, injuring one.
The perpetrators yelled anti-Semitic epithets during all three of the episodes.
“It is very sad and disturbing to hear about this occurrence,” Morrison said, “Anti-Semitic episodes like this — or any act of hatred — not only hurts the ones immediately affected by it, but everyone in that group of people. One has to put oneself in the shoes of the victim of a crime like this to see how disturbing and debilitating it can be...”
This applies not only to those present for such an act of intimidation, Morrison said, but to their entire community, which will often take such an act as a threat against the whole, rather than just a few.
“Law enforcement deserves a pat on the back here and a tip of the hat,” Morrison said, “For locating these people as quickly as they did and for charging them (appropriately).”
The ADL — which is responsible for pushing the Pennsylvania hate crimes law through the General Assembly back in the early 1980s, Morrison says — tracks the incidents of hate crimes in various regions.
“The good news,” he said, “Is that there hasn’t been a significant increase (in these types of crimes) in that area in recent years. The bad news is that these things still do happen.
“This isn’t an isolated incident in the sense that things like this happen all over the world every day,” he continued, “but it doesn’t appear the perpetrators in this case are affiliated with any hate groups. They have been caught. There doesn’t seem to be any further threat in this case.”
Morrison says the data ADL collects yearly doesn’t suggest that Jewish camps should take this incident as a threat to other camps or change their normal security procedures.
“It doesn’t look like this is likely to recur in that area,” He said.
Morrison says his group, which rallies support not just for Jews but for minorities of every stripe, is closely monitoring the story and is thankful for the addition of ethnic intimidation to the list of charges in the case, which he says means penalties will be increased under the hate crimes law if the defendants are found guilty.
News outlets from this newspaper to CNN and ABCNews reached out to District Attorney Janine Edwards about the story Thursday, she said, and it has people all over the area talking, as well.
“There has been a shocking response to this,” she said, “The community is just shocked and saddened by it. Numerous people I have talked to over the past 24 hours have mentioned to me how appalling and obscene this behavior was and how harmful it is.”
This applies both for the children who had to endure the terrifying encounters and for the community that is now associated with it, she said.
Spencer’s bail was set at $200,000 for the incidents and his two alleged adult accomplices had bail set at $20,000 each.
Similar charges against the juveniles in the case were also filed Wednesday.