Hanukkah stabbing suspect charged with hate crimes in New York | News | DW | 30.12.2019
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Hanukkah stabbing suspect charged with hate crimes in New York

Investigators found anti-Semitic journal entries and internet searches while inspecting the suspect's home. The suspect's family has said he has a history of mental illness and had not been taking his medication.

Authorities in the US State of New York said on Monday that they would be pursuing hate crimes charges against a man believed to have stabbed five people celebrating Hanukkah two days earlier.

37-year-old Grafton E. Thomas is expected to appear in court later in the day to face five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs by attempting to kill with a dangerous weapon and causing injuries. Adding hate crime charges to a violent offense can significantly increase the amount of possible jail time.

Read more: Donald Trump condemns anti-Semitism 'scourge'

Thomas is accused of having gone on a stabbing rampage at the home of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi in Monsey, New York, about 30 miles (48 km) north of New York City. He injured five people with what has been described as a machete. Four of the five victims have been released from local hospitals, while the fifth was still undergoing treatment for a skull fracture.

Dozens of people had been celebrating Hanukkah at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg. The victims have not been named by police.

The criminal complaint against Thomas says that investigators found journals containing anti-Semitic language as well as internet searches about anti-Semitism, Adolf Hitler, and nearby synagogues.

The suspect's internet history also revealed that someone had read an article titled "New York City Increases Police Presence in Jewish Neighborhoods After Possible Anti-Semitic Attacks. Here's What To Know."

'A long history of mental illness'

Thomas' family issued a statement saying that he had long suffered from mental illness.

"Grafton Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations. He has no history of like violent acts and no convictions for any crime,'' his family said late Sunday in a statement issued by attorney Michael Sussman. "He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races. He is not a member of any hate groups.''

Read more: New York boosts policing after 'despicable' anti-Semitic attacks on Hanukkah

In court papers from an eviction in 2013, Thomas said he suffered from schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety and described his symptoms as "spontaneous and untamed.''

His aunt told the Associated Press that he had recently stopped taking his medication and had not been seen for a week.

On Sunday, Thomas pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of attempted burglary.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the attack domestic terrorism, saying those carrying out anti-Semitic attacks were "trying to inflict fear. They are motivated by hate.”

es/rc (AP, Reuters)

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