Alleged Cabbie Stabber Indicted on Hate-Crime Charges: Sources

The 21-year-old drunken film student accused of stabbing a Muslim cab driver was indicted Monday on hate crime charges of attempted murder and assault, law-enforcement sources said.

Michael Enright allegedly slashed the cab driver, Sharif Ahmed, in his throat, face and arm last Tuesday evening after learning that he is a Muslim, officials said.

Enright, of Brewster, N.Y., was a no-show at his Criminal Court hearing in Manhattan on Monday, where his defense attorney accused the media of gaining access to confidential information on the case and trying to interview his client in jail.

"My concern is that a member of the press may have taken a file from the prior attorney's bag,'' said defense attorney Lawrence Fisher.  As for reporters trying to visit Enright behind bars: "I don't think that' s an acceptable practice,'' said Fisher.

Enright, a senior at the School of Visual Arts, hailed a taxi near his Manhattan school and then allegedly attacked taxi driver after a short, awkward conversation about Islam.

The student, who spent time in Afghanistan working on a documentary, allegedly yelled, "This is a checkpoint," before stabbing Ahmed.

Police found an empty Scotch bottle in Enright's backpack along with notebooks filled with his impressions of his recent five week trip to Afghanistan where he had been filming a Marine unit.  His writings contained no anti-Muslim rants but did allude to his problems with alcohol, said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Enright's arrest came amid an emotional, worldwide discussion of the planned Islamic center and mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site. Supporters see the mosque as a monument to religious freedom; opponents call it an affront to the memory of the nearly 2,800 people killed by Muslim extremists in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Muslims have been worshiping at the Islamic center site since last year, but it got new attention recently after developers sought to move ahead on an expansion that would include a community center.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the proposal, has linked the furor over the mosque proposal to the cab driver's stabbing.

"This should never have happened and hopefully won't happen again," Bloomberg said at a news conference with Sharif last week. "Hopefully, people will understand that we can have a discourse."

If convicted, Enright could face up to 25 years in prison. He is due back in court on Sept. 22.

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