Police Charged Man With Hate Crime After Allegedly Defacing U.S. Based Liberian Candidate For City Council Posters

By Joseph Ostapiuk | jostapiuk@siadvance.com

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Police have charged a West Brighton man with a hate crime after he allegedly scrawled racist graffiti on the campaign posters of North Shore City Council candidates on multiple occasions over the past year.

Ralph Tedesco, 64, a resident of the 400 block of Davis Avenue, was arrested Wednesday and charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime, among other charges, after he allegedly wrote the phrase “F— YOU N—–” on Legal Aid attorney Kelvin Richards’ North Shore Council campaign poster on Forest Avenue early Wednesday morning, according to a criminal complaint.

Tedesco allegedly wrote racist statements on seven different occasions between March 14, 2020 and Wednesday, the criminal complaint indicates, including one instance where authorities allege he defaced an MTA bus stop with a marker, writing, “BLACK SLAVES MATTER. THEY WILL NEVER BE EQUAL. KILL THE N——.”

On Aug. 31, 2020, at around 5:15 p.m., authorities allege he targeted the campaign poster of City Council candidate Ranti Ogunleye, writing, “n—-,” on his sign before returning just days later, on Sept. 3, 2020, to once again repeat the racist epithet.

The spree continued on Feb. 15, 2021, when the criminal complaint alleges Tedesco wrote on an MTA bus stop vestibule the phrase, “NO N——ALLOWED,” before he once again returned to scrawl more racist messages on March 5 — directed at Richards.

“The hate has to stop. We are all Americans, no matter what we look like, where we come from, how we worship, who we love. All of us,” read Richards’ official campaign statement.

“This man and his language of hate seeks to divide us, intimidate us, and make us weaker as a borough, as a city, as a nation, but we will not be intimidated or divided because together, we are stronger,” said Richards. “I am running for City Council to represent our entire community, and incidents like this reinforce my resolve that real leadership is needed now more than ever.”

“I thank the NYPD for investigating and apprehending this individual, and I look forward to justice being served,” he continued.

Tedesco’s attorney information was not immediately available.

Kelvin Richards is a resident of New Brighton and works as a public defender for Legal Aid Society.

Richards, who lived in a refugee camp in Ghana as a child after he and his family fled conflict from the Liberian civil war, immigrated to the North Shore in 2003 and quickly assimilated into the borough’s Liberian American community before he set off to pursue a legal career.

After beginning his career in Minnesota, he returned to New York City in 2013 to work for Legal Aid as a public defender.

Currently living in New Brighton with his wife, Richards said he began experiencing overt racism when he came to the United States.

“I experienced it here on Staten Island, and you tell yourself, ‘things will change, things will get better,’ ” said Richards during a phone interview with the Advance/SILive.com. “And then when something like this happens that just reminds you that we have more work to do.”

“Prosecuting one racist person does not stop racism in Staten Island,” Richards added, “but I think this is not New York, this is not Staten Island — this is not who we are as a borough or as a city.”

Amid heightened tensions across the country in the wake of a shooting in Georgia that killed eight people, including six Asian women, Richards said it was essential to make it clear that the actions allegedly demonstrated by the West Brighton man “would not be tolerated.”

Richards said he notified police last year after the first instance mentioned in the complaint, and police began monitoring the campaign signs posted in the area with video surveillance following that occurrence.

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