Heshy Tischler pleads guilty to inciting mob against journalist
A Borough Park firebrand and New York City Council candidate pleaded guilty on Friday to charges of “inciting to riot” for whipping up a crowd that attacked a Hasidic journalist last fall during a protest against coronavirus restrictions that morphed into a pro-Trump rally.
During a virtual hearing, the candidate, Heshy Tischler admitted that he egged on a crowd against the journalist, Jacob Kornbluh, who was working for Jewish Insider at the time and now is the Forward’s senior political reporter.
“I welcome the fact that Mr. Tischler acknowledged in the court of law that he incited a riot against me and has been held accountable for his actions,” Kornbluh said afterward. “I am looking forward to continuing my work in journalism undeterred.”
Kornbluh drew ire in the Hasidic community throughout 2020 for reporting on how some within it resisted city and state rules — including the prohibition on large gatherings — to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. At the fall demonstration against such restrictions, Tischler recognized Kornbluh on a Borough Park street, and ordered the crowd to chase him, Kornbluh and other witnesses have recounted.
The mob hit him in the head and kicked him while calling him a “Nazi” and “Hitler.”
Rachel Fishman Feddersen, the publisher and CEO of the Forward, welcomed the news that Tischler had admitted his wrongdoing and said she was “so proud that Jacob has brought his brave reporting to the Forward.”
“Jacob’s insistence on standing up for truth, science, and collective responsibility throughout the pandemic, regardless of personal cost, is an inspirational model of integrity for the media and the Jewish world,” she said.
“Heshy Tischler’s outrageous incitement is a reminder that threats to free speech and the free press are far too close,” Feddersen added. “While today’s plea agreement brings needed closure to this particular incident, it’s a reminder that we must be ever vigilant in protecting against politicized violence and threats to journalists who seek only to tell the truth and serve their community.
A spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office, Oren Yaniv, confirmed the news of the guilty plea and said that the deal came “with the blessing of the victim in the case.”
As part of his plea agreement, Tischler will have to log 10 days of community service at a food bank in Brooklyn. The case will be sealed if he completes the service, adheres to an order to stay away from Kornbluh, keeps his court dates and avoids arrest for six months.
“It’s going to be dismissed and sealed within six months; any pleas will be vacated on that date as well,” said Ezra Levy, a lawyer for Tischler. “Essentially, we expect a full dismissal in December.”
Tischler received 4% of the votes during the 2017 Council election and is running again in a district that includes Midwood and Sheepshead Bay.