WHITEFISH BAY — An inmate is being indicted for a hate crime. Chadwick Grubbs, 33, is accused of threatening the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Whitefish Bay.
Grubbs is an inmate at the Winnebago County Jail. He is in custody for unrelated state charges. But federal authorities say he is now facing three charges of obstruction and attempted obstruction of the free exercise of religious beliefs.
JCC officials say they were alerted in May by the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office of threatening letters meant for their organization. They were returned to the sheriff's office because the suspect did not write down the correct address.
Longtime members of the JCC are relieved.
"I'm extremely, extremely happy that this guy got caught," said one member.
"We cannot tolerate this kind of behavior," said another member.
Law enforcement found no evidence the letters written by Grubbs warranted a change of operations for the center -- unlike last year when a string of threats unrelated to this incident required a police response.
Officials said the center is actually doing better than ever. They have recently seen a boost in membership and support.
JCC President & CEO Mark Shapiro issued the following statement to families & friends of the JCC:
"As part of our commitment to ensuring timely and transparent dialogue with our community, we want to share information about a situation that may receive attention in the coming days.
"This past spring, the Winnebago Country Sheriff’s Department informed us that threatening letters, intended for the JCC and written by an inmate in their jail, had been returned to their attention undelivered. The nature of this correspondence demanded that we engage local and federal law enforcement to understand and investigate the communication, and assure the safety of the community we serve.
"During their investigation, additional correspondence – unrelated to the JCC – was discovered and the inmate was charged as a result of those separate offenses. This week, federal charges were filed against the individual specifically related to the correspondence intended for the JCC.
"It is important to note that the inmate was in custody at the time of sending the communication, remained in custody from the time of its discovery, and remains in custody today. There was no evidence to warrant any change in JCC operations. In support of local and federal authorities, and in deference to their expertise and the best interests of the ongoing investigation, we abstained from any formal communication or comment until now.
"We are blessed to work with exceptional experts and community leaders, and we depend on their professional guidance and recommendations. We will continue to focus on doing what we do best throughout the JCC: serving this community with inclusive values, providing exceptional programs, and ensuring a safe space for all. Even in the face of challenging rhetoric, we’re reminded that our community is one that leads with its heart.
"We’re proud of the community we serve, proud to play a meaningful role in the lives of our neighbors, and proud of the strength we exhibit day in and day out. We welcome your conversation, and open our doors – as we do every day – to your voices, your visits, and your support."