Charges dropped against Zachary Zhao Wang ’20, accused of 2020 menorah vandalism

As part of the agreement, Wang will be required to perform community service, meet with members of the Jewish community on campus and split the restitution costs with Carlos Wilcox — a former member of the Class of 2023 who was the other student charged

by Charlotte Hampton | 1/17/23 5:05am

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The menorah Wilcox is charged with damaging was lit for Hanukkah at the time.
Source: Courtesy of Parker Pickett '22

Grafton County prosecutors dropped charges against Zachary Zhao Wang ’20, who was accused of vandalizing a menorah on display on the Green in December 2020. Among other stipulations, the conditional nol pros agreement requires Wang to perform 100 hours of community service, meet with members of Chabad at Dartmouth and avoid other legal trouble, court documents show.

The resolution is similar to the April 2021 agreement reached with Carlos Wilcox, a former member of the Class of 2023 who was with Wang at the time of the incident and was also charged with a felony. Wilcox paid $1,901.82 to the College in restitution, and now Wang must pay half of that amount to Wilcox in order to split the cost of the restitution, according to the court filing.

The incident was charged as a felony of accomplice criminal mischief and not considered a hate crime because “there was never a whiff of intent around this event,” according to George Campbell, Wang’s attorney. Campbell said that the incident was a “thoughtless act of vandalism,” noting that Wang does not admit to committing it.

“Zach regrets not only that damage occurred, accompanied by the harm perceived or otherwise to the Jewish community,” Campbell said. “He looks forward — as do all Dartmouth students — to a bright future, and given his sympathies and warm feelings for [the Jewish] community, deeply regrets being associated with this in any way.”

The attack had profound effects on Dartmouth’s  Jewish community when it was first committed, especially because it was during a period of increased anti-Semitism nationwide, according to Chabad director Rabbi Moshe Leib Gray. Unlike Campbell, Gray said the attack was “deliberate.”

“It wasn’t like they sort of sprayed the gun and a couple lightbulbs were shot,” Gray said. “It was deliberately shot at. [Wang and Wilcox] say they weren’t targeting the menorah because it was a Jewish symbol… The [Christmas] tree was 30 feet away. They could have targeted the tree also.”

Although Gray said Wang has never reached out to Gray to apologize, Gray said that he harbors no bad feelings toward Wang or Wilcox and feels that the agreement is a positive example of “restorative justice.”  

Wilcox will likely return to Hanover this winter for the court-ordered conversations with Chabad, according to Gray, who wants to be a “resource” for Wilcox and Wang. 

Wang and Wilcox both wrote for The Dartmouth Review and were leaving their offices at the Review when they allegedly shot the menorah, according to the Valley News. The Review’s writers have previously been involved in campus controversies, according to the New York Times. Wang’s charges are reminiscent of  those from an attack perpetrated in 1986 by a group of 12 students — including 10 writers for the Review — who tried to use sledgehammers to destroy shanty towns erected on the Green as a protest of apartheid in South Africa.

The College has historically been slow to address or speak out on attacks on marginalized groups, according to Gray. He cited a delayed response to the synagogue Pittsburgh shooting of 2018.

“Students were very unhappy with that,” Gray said. “They didn’t feel seen. They didn’t feel heard.”

Gray added, however, that Dartmouth’s response to attacks on these groups has vastly improved in recent years, citing the support of the William Jewett Tucker Center — including the center’s director Chaplain Nancy Vogele ’85 — and the resolution to the menorah vandalism. 

“It doesn’t cost anything to respond,” Gray said. 

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence called the attack an “affront” in an email statement. 

“We value the many contributions that the Jewish members of our community bring to the Dartmouth family. The vandalism to the menorah was an affront to everything Dartmouth stands for: diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging,” Lawrence wrote. “In light of the unsettling rise in antisemitic rhetoric nationwide, we are reminded of the responsibility each of us has to stand up to prejudice, discrimination and hate in all its forms.” 

Senior diversity officer Shontay Delalue highlighted the importance of diversity and tolerance to Dartmouth. 

“We strive to ensure every member of our community can thrive and know from research that when people from different cultures work together in an educational research setting, the most innovative ideas are born,” Delalue wrote in an email statement.” 

Grafton County attorney Marcie Hornick did not respond to requests for comment.

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