Federal prosecutors charge Hanukkah stabbing suspect with hate crimes

By Don Jacobson
Federal prosecutors charge Hanukkah stabbing suspect with hate crimes
Grafton Thomas, 37, a suspect in the slayings of five people in the home of a Hasidic Jewish rabbi in New York, is also being eyed in connection with a similar attack on a Jewish man last month. Rockland County Correctional Center/EPA-EFE

Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Hanukkah stabbing suspect Grafton Thomas, already jailed on five counts of attempted murder, has also been hit with federal hate crime charges, according to documents filed Monday in New York.

Thomas, of Greenwood Lake, N.Y., has pleaded not guilty to five state counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary stemming from a machete-wielding attack at the home of a Hasidic Jewish rabbi during a Hanukkah party late Saturday.


He was ordered held on $5 million bail with his next court appearance Friday.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York also weighed in with additional hate crime charges against Thomas, a 37-year-old African-American man.

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FBI investigators said they found journal entries allegedly written by Thomas in which he expressed anti-Semitic views, referencing Adolf Hitler and "Nazi culture."

They said another journal entry allegedly stated that "Hebrew Israelites" had victimized "ebonoid Israelites," which the FBI took to mean African Americans claiming descent from the ancient tribes of Israel.

In the Saturday attack, police said a suspect armed with a machete entered the home Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, N.Y., a town of about 18,000 residents and began stabbing the party-goers.

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Around midnight, Thomas was located in a gray Nissan 30 miles south in New York's Harlem after a traffic stop and taken into custody by the New York Police Department. Authorities say they found an 18-inch Ozark Trail machete in the car.

The hate crime charges came after members of Thomas' family said Sunday that he suffers from mental illness but was not known to harbor hateful views.

"We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness for which ... Grafton has received episodic treatment before being released," according to his family's statement released by their attorney.

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"He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races," the statement continued. "He is not a member of any hate groups."

Rockland County, N.Y., public defender Kristine Ciganek said Thomas had no criminal history and lived with his mother.

Police are also investigating Thomas in connection with another stabbing in the same town last month.

Citing police sources, the New York Post reported authorities are looking at his possible involvement in a Nov. 20 attack in which a 30-year-old Jewish man was beaten and repeatedly stabbed while on his way to a village synagogue in Monsey.


In that attack, the victim was so badly beaten that authorities initially believed he had been hit by a car.

The Nov. 20 incident and Saturday's rampage are part of an upsurge in anti-Semitic hate crimes being reported in the New York City area. There was at least one incident reported every day last week leading up to the Monsey stabbings.

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