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Aakash Dalal pleads not guilty in NJ firebomb attacks

Prosecutors announce arrest of Aakash Dalal on March 2 WCBS 880, Monica Miller

(CBS) HACKENSACK, N.J. - The second man charged in a series of attacks on synagogues in New Jersey pleaded not guilty Monday to charges including conspiracy, aggravated arson, bias intimidation and criminal mischief, reports CBS New York.

Rutgers University student Aakash Dalal, 19,  was arrested Friday, and was described by Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli as being an instigator in the January firebombings.

Prosecutors say Dalal encouraged and inspired 19-year-old Anthony Graziano to carry out firebombings at the Temple Beth-El in Rutherford on Jan. 11 and at a synagogue in Paramus on Jan. 3.

Graziano is accused of hurling the device through the window and onto the bed of Rabbi Nosson Schuman in the Rutherford attack, Molinelli said "Mr. Dalal was the teacher" and "Mr. Graziano was the student."

"It was Mr. Dalal that directed in how to make it, how often to throw it, how to throw it in a way that it would cause the most damage," Molinelli said.

But Dalal's attorney Chris DeLorenzo said, "Mr. Dalal is being prosecuted more for the use of malicious words than for any criminal behavior."

DeLorenzo said Dalal was in New Hampshire at the time of the firebomb attacks, volunteering with the Ron Paul campaign. He concedes Dalal was present for two anti-Semitic graffiti incidents at temples in Hackenasck and Maywood in December.

"Being present at the scene of something doesn't mean you're acting together," DeLorenzo said.

Investigators traced instant messages and texts between Dalal and Graziano.and in one of those messages Graziano allegedly told Dalal before the firebombing, "I finally found an all-wood synagogue. Congregation Beth-El in Rutherford."

After the firebombing, Dalal allegedly wrote "Wow. Nice. I'm looking at the house now."

Graziano has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of first-degree attempted murder, bias intimidation and aggravated arson.

Police said Dalal and Graziano were childhood friends.

More on Crimesider
March 5, 2012 - 2nd man charged in NJ firebomb attacks expected in court today
January 25, 2012 - NJ man arrested for firebombing synagogues

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