Nora Rynkiewicz is taken from Luzerne County Courthouse to the county jail after being sentenced for defacing a local synagogue.Fred adams/FOR THE TIMES LEADER
WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. on Monday sentenced 19-year-old Nora Rynkiewicz to nine to 18 months in county prison followed by three years of probation.
Rynkiewicz faced charges of institutional vandalism, criminal mischief and ethnic intimidation for defacing a Wilkes-Barre synagogue in March with swastikas and other anti-Semitic messages.
Olszewski wasn’t sure Rynkiewicz, who psychiatrists say suffers from bi-polar disorder and other psychological problems, would stop associating with white supremacist groups. And the judge wanted the sentence to serve as a deterrent to Rynkiewicz and others who commit similar crimes.
The sentencing followed nearly two hours of testimony on Monday.
Her attorney, Ronald Greenblatt, blamed the white supremacist groups that put the teen in the situation.
Psychiatrists Alan Tepper and Ronald Reifuce testified that prison would place Rynkiewicz with people she should avoid in order to be rehabilitated.
Tepper, who is also a lawyer, said Rynkiewicz began dealing with problems 13 years ago and her condition became more extreme and aggressive as she became older. He said Rynkiewicz has personality disorder, obsessive beliefs, anti-social traits, bi-polar disorder and has attempted suicide on numerous occasions.
Reifuce said Rynkiewicz is taking medications that suppress some of her conditions, and that a troubled childhood also attributed to the teen’s outlook.
Rynkiewicz’s mother, whose name is also Nora, testified she tried numerous times to get help for her daughter, but Rynkiewicz’s behavior seemed to spiral out of control. Her daughter wore questionable outfits, got in fistfights with her, and began cutting herself, her mother said. When Rynkiewicz was a senior at Wyoming Valley West High School, her mother said she began noticing her daughter was obsessed with Nazi-Germany culture.
Olszewski asked Rynkiewicz’s mother if she ever prevented Rynkiewicz from wearing what she did to school or doing the things she did.
“Why would you let her go to school in that type of attire?” Olszewski asked. “It sounds to me like a pretty dysfunctional home.”
Before being sentenced, Rabbi Nachman Bruce testified that the graffiti on the Ohav Zedek Synagogue “evoked terrible memories of the past” and was a “heinous” act.
Rynkiewicz apologized to her family and the community and said she didn’t realize the pain she had caused until she took a step back.
Rynkiewicz was ordered to pay more than $8,000 in damages, and was immediately taken to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.