Hanukkah Attack: Federal Hate Crime Charges Filed Against Suspect

December 30, 2019 Updated: December 30, 2019
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Federal prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against the suspect who allegedly stabbed five people with a machete during a Hanukkah celebration near New York City on Saturday.

Grafton Thomas, 37, faces five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. On Monday, the federal hate crime charges were laid out against him, reported The Associated Press.

He is expected to appear in federal court in White Plains in Westchester County to face five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs, AP reported.

Of those who were injured, a 71-year-old man remains in the hospital in critical condition. He suffered several stab wounds and a fractured skull in the assault, according to the report.

Thomas had pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder and burglary charges when he was arraigned in a Rockland County court on Sunday. He’s being held on $5 million bond in a Rockland County jail.

Meanwhile, Thomas’s family issued a statement saying he has no ties with any hate groups and has long suffered from mental illness.

“Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations,” the family said in a statement on Sunday night. “He has no history of like violent acts and no convictions for any crime. 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.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Sunday morning that the attack was an “act of domestic terrorism.” It’s not clear if any more charges will be filed against Thomas.

Epoch Times Photo
Police gather outside the residence in Monsey, N.Y., early Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, following a stabbing Saturday during a Hanukkah celebration. (Seth Harrison/The Journal News via AP)

“We have instructed Mr. Thomas’s newly retained attorney, Michael H. Sussman, to seek immediate mental health evaluation of Grafton,” the family said in the statement. “We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness for which, as noted above, Grafton has received episodic treatment before being released.”

There were about 100 people in Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s Monsey home, which is attached to an Orthodox Hasidic Jewish congregation’s synagogue. Monsey is predominantly a community of Orthodox Jews.

“First and foremost, we would like to publicly proclaim our thanks to the One Above who performed a modern-day Chanukah miracle,” Rottenberg said in a statement on Sunday.

“Last night’s brutal attack sent shock waves through our community and around the world; yet, with God’s help, the casualties were less extensive than what might have been. Our hearts and prayers are with all those who were injured, especially the elderly congregant who remains in critical condition at this time.”

Josef Gluck, manager of the synagogue, described the incident to ABC News, saying the suspect entered a dining room where a few dozen people were gathered. He was wearing a hoodie and a scarf covering his face except for his eyes, Gluck said, adding that the man then began swinging a large knife at the victims.

“He was just swinging his sword … back and forth hitting people. He didn’t say anything,” Gluck said.