A judge on Friday sentenced a 39-year-old Lakewood man to eight years in prison for a senseless, unprovoked baseball-bat attack on a rabbi, despite pleas from the defendant’s attorney that his client needs psychiatric help instead of prison. “This was an unprovoked, senseless attack resulting in serious permanent injury to the victim,” Superior Court Judge Francis R. Hodgson said in sentencing Lee Tucker of Ventura Drive to the prison term. Hodgson ordered that Tucker serve 85 percent of the prison term, or 6 years, nine months and 22 days, before he can be considered for release on parole, under the state’s No Early Release Act.
Hodgson also ordered Tucker to make $9,500 in restitution to the victim, Rabbi Mordechai Moskowitz of Lakewood.
Assistant Ocean County Prosecutor Michael Weatherstone asked for the restitution, saying that Moskowitz has to see a specialist in Philadelphia twice a year because of the seizures he suffers as a result of the attack.
Tucker pleaded guilty Dec. 7 to aggravated assault on Moskowitz, admitting that he struck the victim, a stranger, repeatedly on the head with an aluminum baseball bat on Oct. 9, 2007.
The incident received widespread attention in Lakewood’s Orthodox community.
Moskowitz, then 53 and a third-grade teacher at Lakewood Cheder School, was walking to synagogue to pray when he was attacked just after dark at Princeton Avenue and Carey Street in Lakewood.
The victim suffered fractures to his skull, nose and eye socket as well as a brain hemorrhage, Weatherstone said. Because of the injuries, Moskowitz is at risk for early onset of Alzheimer’s disease, the prosecutor said.
Tucker’s attorney, Glenn Kassman, said his client is severely mentally ill and has been in and out of psychiatric institutions most of his life. Although Tucker’s mental illness did not rise to the level of a defense, it is the only possible explanation for the random attack, Kassman said.
“We’re here today because of what can only be described as a truly senseless act by a very, very sick man,” Kassman said. “Lee Tucker is going to state prison but Lee Tucker does not belong in state prison — he belongs in a mental institution.”
Weatherstone countered, “I think state prison is exactly where Lee Tucker belongs.
“He took out Mr. Moskowitz with an aluminum baseball bat for no reason . . . hit him in the head repeatedly,” Weatherstone said, asking for the maximum sentence of 10 years.
“This defendant must realize that you do not get to walk down the street and take a baseball bat to someone’s head,” he said.
Portraying Tucker as a master manipulator, the assistant prosecutor said that Tucker talked to fellow inmates at the Ocean County Jail about using his mental illness to “beat the charge.” Tucker also went shopping after the attack with an aunt at a store where they were pictured on a surveillance videotape, in a failed attempt to provide an alibi, Weatherstone said.
“That’s someone who’s trying to manipulate the system,” Weatherstone said.
Moskowitz sat quietly in the rear of the courtroom during the sentencing and declined to comment afterward. APP