Breaking news

January 20, 2020

NC judge’s son pleads guilty to antisemitic threats against a Cary synagogue

William Warden
William Warden, son of a state Court of Appeals judge, pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor charges stemming from 2018 threats against a Cary synagogue, a hearing that sparked an emotional discussion of mental illness, racism and the Internet.

Warden, who has struggled with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia all his life, remains in 24-hour mental health treatment in Florida and did not attend Wednesday’s hearing. As part of his plea, he will stay in treatment another 12 months to complete two years of treatment, much longer than the maximum 45-day jail sentence that could be allowed.

Attorney Roger Smith Jr. read an apology from the 21-year-old, in which he describes himself being isolated and afraid on the night he made the threats. He described “turning to the Internet, especially its more toxic corners, for validation.”

Warden is the son of Judge Lucy Inman, who is running for the state Supreme Court. In a 2018 statement, the family attributed Warden’s actions to longstanding mental illness, which made him vulnerable to being exploited by white supremacists online.

“As deeply concerned parents, we apologize profusely to the Jewish community and to all who have been impacted. And we are treating this situation with utmost seriousness,” the statement said.

District Court Judge William Lawton told the courtroom Wednesday that mental illness is not an excuse, a sentiment echoed by many in attendance.

“It just makes someone more susceptible to the pernicious evil that pervades this broken world,” Lawton said.
Police arrested Warden at his Cary apartment in 2018, accusing him of going to Congregation Sha’arei Shalom on Old Apex Road, ringing a doorbell and threatening damage through the camera. He was charged with ethnic intimidation.

Investigators said in 2018 that Warden appeared agitated and laughed twice before he said: “Get out of the government, that’s how you can help me. ... Get out of Cary. ... And get out of our country.”

He made repeated references to “Nov. 5,” a day the state and federal Bureau of Investigation could not find significant.

Two days before the threats, Warden met with FBI agents, telling them he did not like the Jewish faith and that “he belongs to a group of like-minded individuals who live in the area,” according to 2018 court documents.

Warden told the FBI he belonged to a local group called the Traditionalist Youth Network that communicates through Facebook and Gab, a social media network that has been used by some on the far right.

Rabbi Seth Klayman said Wednesday the Cary synagogue has added more surveillance and locks its doors, jarred by the “classic and unambiguous anti-Semitic threats” that may have triggered later vandalism there.

The congregation nonetheless wishes him well on his recovery.

“Our prayer is his destructive ideology will be converted to a constructive life of acts of loving kindness,” Klayman said. “We stand ready and eager to forgive him. He can count us among those cheering for him to turn his life around.”
In a request for a search warrant the day of Warden’s arrest, Cary police officer J.A. Young said Gab’s notoriety grew after 11 people were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27. The accused shooter, Robert Bowers, “frequently engaged in anti-Semitic hate speech” on Gab.

“Warden appeared to have absolutely no concern for the loss of life and stated that he suspected Robert Bowers was ‘out of options,’” Young wrote.

Warden reportedly told the FBI that although he does not support violence, he would not stand in the way of others who commit violence.

Later, investigators learned Warden had put up a cross in Bond Park on High House Road and lit it on fire. Warden was charged with a misdemeanor violation of a state statute that forbids “placing [a] burning or flaming cross on [the] property of another or on [a] public street or highway or on any public place.”

Those charges were dismissed, District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said.

“Let me be very clear,” she said. “There is nothing about this behavior that the state condones. There is nothing about this behavior the state believes must go hand-in-hand with mental illness.”
At the time, Warden posted on Facebook about his struggles with mental illness.

In April 2018, he wrote in a post, “Most of you already know this about me, but might as well announce it for attention since Mariah Carey did. I’m more Bipolar than a trendy weatherman who lied to get his job. I’m lovin’ it.”

An earlier Facebook post read, “Crazy and proud.”

Warden also mused publicly about religion and race on social media but veered toward anti-Semitism toward the end of 2018, including updating his online biography with a quote from Robert Jay Matthews, a neo-Nazi killed in a 1984 shootout with federal authorities: “Stand up like men! and reclaim our soil.”

As recently as August, Warden continued such posts on Twitter, alarming some by announcing he was “out on the streets.” Officials confirmed he was receiving inpatient psychiatric care in Florida and the posts, which were removed, were inaccurate.

To those who find the sentence for the charges inadequate, Lawton said he is bound to follow the law, which the Legislature would need to address.

“There are very few faith institutions in this world that do not have armed security,” the judge said, saying the fear goes beyond synagogues. “Personally, it wouldn’t up set me if we had the second coming tomorrow because this world is such a mess.”

Source: newsobserver