JFK Passenger Who Allegedly Kicked, Shouted at Muslim Employee Pleads Not Guilty in Hate Crime Case

What to Know

  • Robin Rhodes of Worcester, Mass., pleaded not guilty to hate crime charges Thursday
  • Rhodes was on a layover at JFK when he allegedly harassed and kicked a Muslim employee, prosecutors say
  • The 57-year-old man allegedly told the woman inside the Delta Sky Lounge at Terminal 2, "Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you"

A Massachusetts businessman pleaded not guilty to hate crime charges after he allegedly shouted slurs at and kicked a Muslim airline employee in the Delta Sky Lounge at Kennedy Airport in January, prosecutors say. 

Robin A. Rhodes of Worcester pleaded not guilty in New York State Supreme Court Thursday.

The four-count indictment against the 57-year-old charged him with assault, menacing and unlawful imprisonment as hate crimes. He was released on bail. Neither he nor his lawyer commented outside court.

His next court date is June 12.

Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said hate crimes "will never be tolerated" but when they do happen, those responsible "will be brought to justice".

Rhodes landed at JFK Airport from Aruba Jan. 25, where he was to take a connecting flight back to Massachusetts, according to Brown.

As he waited inside the Delta Sky Lounge at Terminal 2, he approached an employee, 60-year-old Rabeeya Khan, in her office, according to the DA. She was wearing a hijab. 

"Are you [expletive] sleeping? Are you praying? What are you doing?" Rhodes allegedly said to her before punching the door, which hit the back of the employee's chair. 

When Khan asked what she'd done to Rhodes to make him angry, he allegedly responded: "You did nothing, but I am going to kick your [expletive]." 

He then kicked her in the right leg, prosecutors said, and when she tried to get away from him by retreating to a corner of the office, he kicked the door, stepped into the office and blocked her from leaving. 

When someone else came over to the office to try to calm Rhodes down, he moved away from the door, and Khan ran out of the office to the lounge's front desk.

But Rhodes still followed her, then got down on his knees and began to bow down, mimicking a Muslim prayer, prosecutors said, and allegedly shouted, "[Expletive] Islam, [expletive] ISIS, Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kinds of people. You will see what happens." 

As he was being arrested, Rhodes allegedly told police, "I guess I am going to jail for disorderly conduct. I couldn't tell if it was a man or woman because their back was to me and they had something covering their head." 

Port Authority police and NYPD conducted the investigation. 

Rhodes is the president of Nitrofreeze Cryogenic Solutions, a metals company based in Worcester.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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