Saugerties Man in Connection to Anti-Semitic Incident Reportedly Said to Jewish Co-Worker: "You're in The Gas Chamber Now," Followed by "You F-ing Jew."
Governor Cuomo: "If you attack a Jewish person, you attack me. If you attack a Muslim person, you attack me. You attack an LGBTQ member, you attack me. That's the New York credo...Bias-related crimes, hate crimes, are not just wrong, they're not just unethical, they're not just immoral - they are illegal and we will prosecute every case to the fullest extent of the law. And that is my promise as Governor of the state of New York."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and New York State Police Superintendent Keith Corlett addressed the arrest and charges of a Saugerties man in connection to a hate crime-related incident at a store in the town of Ulster. The arrest is the result of an investigation into an incident that occurred on March 11, 2019, at Mother's Earth's Storehouse on Kings Mall Court in Ulster. A female employee, who is Jewish, reported that she was in the cooler with another co-worker when Sullivan came into the doorway, shut off the lights, and made an anti-Semitic remark, "You're in the gas chamber now," followed by "you f-ing Jew." More information is available here.
AUDIO of today's event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Superintendent Corlett: Good morning everyone. I'm Keith Corlett, Acting Superintendent of the New York State Police. I want to take a moment to acknowledge some of the folks who are here. Major Pierce Gallagher, Troop F Commander. Captain Brian Shortall, who's not up here, but he's Captain for Troop F. Lieutenant Riva Navarro, oversaw the entire investigation and Investigator Joseph Temple, was the lead investigator. Also to my left is the City of Kingston Mayor Steve Noble. Thank you.
This morning, following an investigation, the New York State Police arrested William Sullivan, 21 years of age, of Saugerties, for aggravated harassment 2nd degree. Last week, on March 16, Troop F received a report that a hate crime occurred at a business in the town of Ulster. The victim, who is of the Jewish faith, was an employee at Mother Earth's Storehouse. The complainant reported the victim was in a small refrigerated cooler at the store, when Sullivan stood in the doorway, turned off the lights, and said, and I warn you, this is a little difficult to say, "You're in the gas chamber now" and then said "you f-ing Jew" - an obviously offensive anti-Semitic comment. The victim says she was horrified. The incident was reported to store management and then to the State Police.
Following an investigation, including an interview of one witness, State Police arrested and charged Sullivan on the aggravated harassment in the 2nd degree. Over the past few years, we have witnessed a disturbing trend, with the number of reported hate crimes significantly increasing. I know we all share a commitment to reversing this trend, and seeking justice for all victims. We want to remind the public, the State Police will investigate every complaint reported and will bring the people who commit these crimes to justice. As always - if you want to report a crime or fear for your safety, call 911 immediately. I also want to take this opportunity to thank Governor Cuomo for his determined commitment to fighting hate crimes like these and sending a very clear signal that bias related crimes and discrimination are not welcome in this state. To speak more on the issue, I turn it over to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you. let me begin by thanking Superintendent Keith Corlett, Major Gallagher for their fine work and all the members of this Troop, who obviously have attended to this matter very quickly. I want to thank Mayor Noble for being here. I wish it was under happier circumstances, but we're doing a lot of good work with the mayor and Kingston and in that regard it's a pleasure to see the mayor again.
This situation is sad. It's disturbing. It's frightening on one level. We'll see how the actual case develops, but the accusation is obviously very troubling and very disturbing. What makes it worse, frankly, is that this is not an isolated situation. We have been seeing a growing number of anti-Semitic activity. We've seen it nationwide where between 2016 and 2017 we had a 60 percent increase nationwide in the number of anti-Semitic attacks. In New York State, the number is actually worse. From 2016 to 2017 we've had a 90 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks.
This year, 2019, we have started off in just the first few months of this year with an ever-increasing pattern of anti-Semitic incidents. This past January, we had three attacks on Orthodox Jewish men in Brooklyn. One on a 21-year-old man. One on a 22-year-old Yeshiva student who was on the telephone speaking to his parents. And one on a 51-year-old man who was beaten so badly he had to be hospitalized. February 10th there were swastikas that defaced a park in Long Island, New York. February 16th, the window of a synagogue in Brooklyn was shattered while people were inside, including children. February 19th, swastikas on a subway station in New York City. February 24th, swastikas on a public school in Queens, New York. March 5th, anti-Jewish sayings on a Jewish Center in Nassau. March 7th, swastikas in Manhattan at a facility called Asphalt Green which is a fitness facility. March 17th, more swastikas on a state park in Long Island and it brings us to today.
This is something that everyone must be concerned about. And it's here in New York, we see it nation-wide. But this is New York. And in New York, it is offensive, it is shocking, and frankly, it's hard for me to even believe that this is the reality. I take it personally. I take it personally on behalf of myself—I have many friends who are of the Jewish faith. I have family members who are Jewish. Two of my brothers in law are Jewish. My sister Maria married Kenneth Cole, my sister Margaret married Howard Maier. Traveled to Israel with them. They have my nieces. So I have family members who are Jewish. As a New Yorker I am personally offended. The Jewish community is a vital part of New York. New York would not be what New York is without the Jewish community. Back to the very beginning, Emma Lazarus whose words are on the Statue of Liberty, who wrote the poem on the Statue of Liberty, was from a Jewish family in New York. And I'm offended as an American because this is against every principle that makes America, America.
Our Founding Fathers said E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. That was the premise. The nation is founded on people who are different and it is premised on the principle that we will accept people who are different, who agree to a certain set of ideals and forge one community from those differences. That's what America is all about. Now, unfortunately it's not just anti-Semitism. We see a virus of hate that is spreading across this country, that is spreading across this globe. We see anti-Muslim activity, what we just saw in New Zealand. We see anti-Semitism all across the country, recently in the Pittsburgh Synagogue. Anti-Latino activity, anti-Puerto Rico activity, which to me was demonstrated after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria and this nation virtually did nothing and treated them as second class citizens even though Puerto Rican's are American citizens.
So, it is spreading. We see it in anti-LGBTQ activity and it's only getting worse. And it's a virus, and it's a cancer, and it is spreading and I believe there is no external threat that can defeat this nation. But the enemy within can defeat this nation and the enemy within is prejudice, and anger, and hatred, and demonizing differences. We start demonizing differences we are lost, because we are all different. That was the point of the American experiment in the first place. Every great thinker has said it, every great leader has said it, every great poet has said it. We just have to heed the words that we've heard. Elie Wiesel said, "There may be times when we are powerless to preventing injustice, but there must never be a time where we fail to protest." Martin Luther King: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
We know these things to be true. We just have to bring those actions into our daily existence. I hope that New York State can set a different example in this rising tide of anger, in this rising time of hatred, let new Yorkers make a different state. We know diversity better than most states. We know diversity better than most places in this nation because we were the stepping off point for so many immigrants who came here. And we have 18 million people from every place on the globe. And we've made it work. We have New York City one of the densest populations of people from different places. And we've made it work. And the way we make it work is by standing together and standing united, and refusing to accept discrimination of anyone, any race, any color, any creed, any sexual orientation.
If you attack a Jewish person, you attack me. If you attack a Muslim person, you attack me. You attack an LGBTQ member, you attack me. That's the New York credo. And that's what we practice, and that's what we believe, and that's what we are going to do. Bias-related crimes, hate crimes, are not just wrong, they're not just unethical, they're not just immoral, they are illegal. And we will prosecute every case to the fullest extent of the law. And that is my promise, as Governor of the state of New York. And I applaud the state police and the Ulster County DA for their rapid action in this case making that point. Zero tolerance. Zero tolerance for racism, discrimination, hate crimes in the state of New York. Thank you.