New Square arson victim hires lawyers; suspect arraigned in NYC hospital
Steve Lieberman • Journal News
NEW SQUARE — An attorney hired by the family of a man severely burned during an arson attempt early Sunday reiterated the family's claim that the attack was orchestrated by religious leaders of the Hasidic Jewish village.
Michael Sussman will hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon in front of Aron Rottenberg's Truman Avenue home where Sunday's attack occurred.
Sussman said Rottenberg had no personal issues with the suspect, Shaul Spitzer, 18, contradicting the position of a village leader.
Sussman said Rottenberg's rights to practice his religion were violated by the leadership of grand rabbi David Twersky, the dynastic spiritual leader of the Skver Hasidic Jewish community.
"Rather this event culminated months of increasingly violent and coordinated religiously based attacks on Mr. Rottenberg triggered by the victim's choice of synagogue and religious leader," Sussman said
Spitzer was being arraigned this morning in a Manhattan hospital burn unit room. He suffered severe burns to his arms and hands.
Ramapo police charged Spitzer with felony counts of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree arson and first-degree assault.
Spitzer is accused of tossing a flammable item onto the rear porch of Rottenberg's home on Truman Avenue.
Rottenberg, a plumber, and his family have been the targets of community intimidation since last year, police reports and Internet videos show.
Mobs of people descended on his house, demanding he leave the Skver Hasidic Jewish community.
Rottenberg and his family said his refusal to pray in Twersky's synagogue led to retaliation from community members. Rottenberg's family and residents say Spitzer worked as a butler in the grand rabbi's home.
After 4 a.m. Sunday, Rottenberg confronted Spitzer outside his house. Both of them caught fire, police said.
Rottenberg suffered third-degree burns across 50 percent of his body. He's being treated at the Westchester Medical Center.
Spitzer is being treated at the Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan with serious burns to his hands and arms.
Ramapo Detective Lt. Mark Emma said this morning that a video from Rottenberg's house shows one man outside.
He said detectives are investigating all avenues of the case, including who broke Rottenberg's windows last week and those who attacked his house last autumn.
"We're looking at all the incidents together," Emma said as he drove to Manhattan for the arraignment. We're looking at whether the incidents were done collectively or by people acting individually."
Emma said one other family on Bush Lane has reported being targeted, but "Mr. Rottenberg for some reason has been the principal victim."
Emma said detectives spoke to Rottenberg, but he was under heavy sedation. His son-in-law, Moshe Elbaum, said Rottenberg has been in great pain.
Spitzer declined to talk to police without his attorney, James Licata, the county public defender, Emma said.
[Hat Tip: CS.]