What to Know
- The man accused of stabbing five people with a machete during a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, New York, pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges on MOnday
- Grafton Thomas faces five counts each of attempting to kill victims based on their religion and obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs
- Thomas' defense attorney, Michael Sussman, has said the 37-year-old has a long history of mental illness; Thomas said he was on medication including Prozac at the time of the attack
The man accused of stabbing five people with a machete during a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey last month pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges at his arraignment on Monday.
The federal indictment charged Grafton Thomas with five counts each of attempting to kill victims based on their religion and obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs by attempting to kill with a dangerous weapon.
In entering his not guilty plea, Thomas said he was on medication at the time of the attack, including Prozac.
The 37-year-old man also faces state charges in the Dec. 28 attack inside the rabbi's home. He is being held without bail on the federal charges.
“We now allege that he did this with the intention of targeting his victims because of their religion,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said last week in announcing the federal indictment. “Thomas faces life in prison for his alleged violent acts of prejudice and intolerance.”
Thomas' defense attorney, Michael Sussman, has said Thomas had a long history of mental illness. He has requested Thomas undergo a psychiatric evaluation. He said Monday that he would determine whether to pursue a competency hearing after he receives that results of that evaluation.
Meanwhile, a judge said that Thomas may need attorneys specializing in death penalty cases if a stabbing victim dies. U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel raised the subject before Thomas entered his not guilty plea.
Authorities have said they found a blood-stained 18-inch machete in Thomas' car, along with a knife smeared with dried blood and hair. They also said Thomas had handwritten journals containing anti-Semitic references and recently used his phone to look up information on Hitler and the location of synagogues.
The Hanukkah stabbings came amid a wave of anti-Semitic attacks targeting Orthodox Jewish communities in and around New York City.
One of the men wounded in the machete attack remains in serious condition. His family has said he may have permanent brain damage.
Timeline of Recent Anti-Semitic Attacks