NH man charged after leaving antisemitic messages with synagogue

Aidan Kelley, 20, was charged with making annoying telephone calls/electronic messages and released on personal recognizance.

Male hands arrested with handcuffs in Criminal concept (illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Male hands arrested with handcuffs in Criminal concept (illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

An Exeter, New Hampshire, man was arraigned Friday in Newburyport District Court after police say he left three anti-Israeli and antisemitic voice messages with Congregation Ahavas Achim's leader over the summer.

Aidan Kelley, 20, was charged with making annoying telephone calls/electronic messages and released on personal recognizance. Newburyport police had also charged him with criminal harassment but a clerk magistrate at the court ruled there was not enough probable cause to sustain the charge and dropped it.

While awaiting trial, Kelley must stay away and have no contact with the Washington Street synagogue and stay out of trouble with the law. He is due back in court on April 1 for a pre-trial hearing. Kelley has an open case out of Salem District Court involving a theft-related incident.

In addition, Kelley has 47 "prior in-house interactions and five previous criminal charges" with local police, according to Officer Joshua Tierney's report.

The first voice message to synagogue leader Alexander Matthews was recorded on July 23 and declares that Palestine will be free and to stop killing Muslims and Christians. Roughly two weeks later, on Aug. 2, a second voice message calls Israel a "terrorist state" and "apartheid free Palestine."

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Northern Ireland v Israel - Windsor Park, Belfast, Britain - September 11, 2018 Free Palestine message displayed on a hill outside the stadium (credit: CLODAGH KILCOYNE/REUTERS)Soccer Football - International Friendly - Northern Ireland v Israel - Windsor Park, Belfast, Britain - September 11, 2018 Free Palestine message displayed on a hill outside the stadium (credit: CLODAGH KILCOYNE/REUTERS)

Both phone calls were immediately reported to police and by Aug. 5, Tierney had applied for a subpoena to examine phone subscriber information from a New Hampshire telephone number. The third message was recorded on Sept.  9 and blames Israel for the killing of Iranian scientists.

"Shame on Israel. Israel terrorists, assassin," the message says, according to Tierney's report.

By Sept. 21, Tierney identified the subscriber as living in Exeter, New Hampshire, with a secondary contact locally. The records also showed Kelley as the son of the subscriber. Tierney then visited Kelley's Facebook page and found a photo of Kelley and another person standing in front of a sign that reads "Free Palestine."

An Aug. 28 Facebook post shows a photo of protesters holding up signs declaring former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu a war criminal and demanding the end of United States aid to Israel.

Also on Sept. 21, Tierney called Kelley and said he was investigating a series of suspicious telephone calls to Congregation Ahavas Achim and asked if he knew anything about them. Kelley denied knowing anything at first but when Tierney mentioned the Facebook posts and photos, Kelley reversed himself.

"I didn't mean anything by it," Kelley said, according to Tierney.

Kelley, Tierney added, was unable to justify the calls other than that he "was Catholic and politically passionate about issues related to Israel and Palestine. Mr. Kelley reiterated that he didn't mean anything by it and it will not happen again."

A phone call and text to Congregation Ahavas Achim seeking comment was not returned in time for this report.

An Anti-Defamation League spokesperson declined to comment at this time.