By Bill Parry
Astoria resident Yaacov Shemesh, 53, pleaded guilty Tuesday to third-degree criminal mischief, an E felony, for a six-month-long graffiti spree, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown
Brown said Shemesh spray-painted or used markers to tag various buildings and garage doors in his neighborhood with homophobic slurs and anti-Obama messages.
Shemesh entered a guilty plea before Acting Supreme Court Justice Gia Morris, who indicated she will sentence him to 90 days in jail, five years probation and sensitivity training Nov. 1.
“The defendant has now admitted his guilt,” Brown said. “For months, he plastered messages of hate and intolerance on various structures throughout Astoria. The defendant vandalized other people’s property that ultimately required costly fixes. The defendant, as a result of his actions, will go to jail.”
According to the charges, between December 2016 and May 2017, Shemesh scrawled homophobic slurs combined with the name of former President Barack Obama. It said he occasionally used the slurs with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s names. The defendant vandalized both residential and commercial buildings and garages within walking distance on his Newtown Avenue home.
Shemesh repeatedly targeted the district offices of state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria). The elected officials have been vocal against the Trump administration’s executive orders and have taken action toward uniting their neighborhoods.
“The acts of hateful vandalism our neighborhood was forced to endure during the months of this vandal’s actions were outrageous and unacceptable,” Gianaris said. “I am pleased justice is being served and urge our community to continue being the inclusive and accepting beacon it has always been.”
Shemesh was arrested in June following an investigation by the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Unit. Brown added that, according to the criminal charges, video surveillance of some of the incidents showed a six-foot tall man wearing dark boots, a dark jacket and a Yankees cap. After the defendant’s arrest, he identified himself in the video footage and admitted to making political graffiti.
“We thank the 114th Precinct and the District Attorney’s Office for investigating this hateful crime and holding the perpetrator responsible,” Constantinides said. “There is no place in Astoria for this type of bigoted defacement of property. As hate crimes are increasing across our city, we stand together in support of respect and tolerance.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr