Shaul Spitzer, 18, of New Square plead guilty to first degree assault and faces 5 to 10 years in prison after a deal was reached at the Rockland County Court House.
NEW CITY — An 18-year-old New Square man accused of trying to kill his neighbor in an arson attack stemming from a religious dispute pleaded guilty this morning to first-degree assault.
Shaul Spitzer, who worked for the Hasidic Jewish community's rabbinic leader, faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. He admiitted lighting Aron Rottenberg on fire in front of his home early on the morning of May 22.
Rottenberg, who suffered severe burns in the attack, was in the courtroom when Spitzer admitted to the crime. He told the judge that he approved the plea deal.
Sentencing is set for April 17; Judge William Kelly says he will sentence Spitzer to no less than five years on jail.
Also, a settlement is being discussed in Rottenberg’s civil lawsuit against Spitzer and Grand Rebbe David Twersky that is expected to be in the $2 million range. Kelly said the agreement will ensure Rottenberg’s rights are respected within the village and allow him to sell his house.
Investigators said Spitzer tossed a homemade incendiary device onto the back porch of the house, where Rottenberg’s family was sleeping.
The attack was thought to be part of a campaign of retribution against Rottenberg, who disobeyed an order from the community’s grand rebbe by praying outside the village.
Because of months of threats — including telephone calls days earlier — and vandalism, Rottenberg's son had been monitoring surveillance cameras installed on the house.
The elder Rottenberg then confronted the masked man and during a struggle another incendiary device carried by the man detonated, burning Rottenberg and Spitzer.
Spitzer ran off and a resident treated him for his burns.
Following a Ramapo police investigation into the May incident, a Rockland grand jury indicted Spitzer in June on charges of second-degree attempted murder, second-degree attempted arson and two counts of first-degree assault, all felonies.