Two years ago this past August, Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner received three separate threatening emails. All of them bore the same disparaging content, riddled with profanities and anti-Semitic slurs accosting Feiner and his family. While all of the emails were signed as “Anti-Zionist,” an investigation promptly began and the sender was identified as Timothy Goetze of White Plains. After his identity was confirmed, Goetze was arrested and spent a night in jail. However, he was released on bail after pleading not guilty.
Feiner received these disturbing emails after he had voiced the community’s concern over a monument that is dedicated to over 40 Confederate soldiers that are buried in a private cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson. The controversial obelisk stands 60 feet and bears an inscription honoring the buried soldiers who came north after the Civil War.
On September 20, 2019, Goetze was found guilty on three counts of Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, a Class A misdemeanor. Goetze’s only defense was rooted in the First Amendment and his right to freedom of speech. Nevertheless, the court ruled that the emails were not political and were a “true threat” to the Feiner family. The defendant was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge with 75 hours of community service.
District Attorney Anthony Scarpino commented, “This verdict against Mr. Goetze is an important outcome which illustrates how we seek justice whenever there is a threat to a public figure or any residents of Westchester. Threatening messages will always be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Let anyone who might make such threats know we will go after them.”
While this case serves as an example of justice being duly served for intolerance, there are unfortunately numerous acts that go unpunished. Recently a swastika was found at Scarsdale High School. The symbol was discovered in a bathroom stall, and due to the privacy of the location, it will be extremely difficult to find the perpetrator. As Supervisor Feiner poignantly states, “We read, almost daily, of anti-Semitic and racist acts around Westchester, the region and the nation. We should not become immune to acts of intolerance of any type. I hope that this conviction will send a message to people who are considering threatening others that they could get caught and prosecuted. Even more importantly, I hope we can all learn to respect and support each other”.