A Howell Township man who was arrested in March for allegedly threatening to drive down to Lakewood and harm Jewish residents with a baseball bat, has plead guilty to Bias Intimidation, Ocean County First Assistant Prosecutor Michael T. Nolan, Jr. announced on Monday.

At the time of sentencing on September 25, the State will be seeking a sentence of 180 days in the Ocean County Jail for Anthony Lodespoto, 43, as a condition of Probation.

Lodespoto remains lodged in the Ocean County Jail pending sentencing.

Lakewood Police Detectives began an investigation into the threat which was made via Facebook direct messaging against the Jewish community of Lakewood on March 26 and Lodespoto sent a similar message to the Facebook account of Governor Phil Murphy the very next day.

Assistant Prosecutor Nolan said that the threats largely consisted of Lodespoto threatening to travel to Lakewood with the purpose of assaulting members of the Jewish community with a baseball bat.

This came at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and when state regulations, guidelines and executive orders were being issued by Governor Murphy and enforced by state and local law enforcement.

"I am keenly aware these are extraordinarily stressful times, but that does not give anyone license to engage in violent behavior or threaten to commit violent acts," Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said in a written statement on March 28. "The statements made by this individual were not an exercise in free speech; rather, they exhibited an abhorrence to the values of a free and civilized society."

Lodespoto's arrest also came as Murphy and State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan defended Lakewood against harassment and discrimination following several violations of groups in Lakewood violating the emergency order banning gatherings of any type.

This included a pair of weddings in Lakewood in March where a couple days after Governor Murphy extended public gathering restrictions to not allow more than 50 people in one place at one time, two groups of people rolled the dice and ignored that directive by having much more than that amount in terms of guests at the weddings and receptions.

The gatherings in Lakewood continued after the arrest of Lodespoto for nearly a month of time as well that included township police and the Ocean County Prosecutors Office breaking up such events as large gatheringsengagement partiesa funeral that had 70 people, and a toy store that had 50 people inside the location.

Previous reporting by Dan Alexander was also used in this report.

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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