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Synagogue Hate Crime Suspect Has Swastika Tattoo, Racist Literature: Court

By  Erica Demarest and David Matthews | February 9, 2017 2:38pm | Updated on February 9, 2017 4:24pm

 Stuart Wright, 31, is charged with a hate crime and criminal damage to property.
Stuart Wright, 31, is charged with a hate crime and criminal damage to property.
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Chicago Police Department

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — The man who defaced a Downtown synagogue with swastika stickers is a local white supremacist who has a swastika tattoo on his back, a tipster told police prior to Stuart Wright's arrest.

Wright, 31, appeared Thursday before Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr. on charges of hate crime and criminal damage to property. Panarese condemned Wright's alleged behavior, saying "we cannot tolerate this type of conduct," before setting bail at $150,000.

According to prosecutors, Wright drove up to the Chicago Loop Synagogue at 16 S. Clark St. about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, smashed a window and defaced the building's front door with swastika stickers before leaving.

During a bond hearing Thursday, Assistant State's Attorney Lorraine Scaduto noted that Saturday is the Sabbath, a sacred day in the Jewish faith.

The window damage is estimated at $4,000, prosecutors said.

Police arrested Wright on Tuesday near his home in the 2000 block of South Loomis Street in Pilsen, court records show. Officers had received an anonymous tip after releasing surveillance footage of the attack on Sunday.

The tipster described Wright as a white supremacist with a swastika tattoo on his back who often put up swastika stickers near his home, Scaduto said. Police found in Wright's apartment a pamphlet titled "How to own a n-----."

At the time of Saturday's attack, Wright was free on bond for a pending DuPage county case involving aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, Scaduto said. Officers were able to match Wright's fingerprints to those found on the swastika stickers Saturday.

According to prosecutors, construction workers near the synagogue heard glass shatter about 12:30 a.m. Saturday and saw Wright flee from the scene in what was later identified as Wright's father's SUV.

Defense attorney Michael T. Byrne in court Thursday said Wright works as a certified public accountant and has a master's degree in accounting. His family lives in Oak Brook.

"It’s important for people never to judge anyone without knowing all the facts," Byrne said after the bond hearing. Byrne declined to comment further.

The crime alarmed Chicagoans of all faiths. Synagogue President Lee Zoldan said it was the first attack since the synagogue opened its doors in 1959.

"It brings us some closure," Zoldan said of the arrest. "[Wright's] innocent until proven guilty, but the fact we have somebody who [police are] bringing charges to, that’s a start."

The synagogue had offered up to $3,000 as a reward for information leading to a suspect's arrest.

By Monday afternoon the synagogue's front door had been covered in letters of support from neighbors of all faith.

Local religious leaders led an "interfaith gathering" at noon Wednesday. Zoldan said the gathering was attended by more than 1,000 people of Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths.

"You couldn’t get parking spaces for four blocks in any direction," Zoldan said.

The gathering was led by the Chicago-based Jewish United Fund.

"All Americans aspire to live in a society that is free from discrimination, from fear," Aaron Cohen, the fund's vice president of communications, said Monday. "When anyone thinks it is open season on those values, for whatever reason, then we all stand to lose."