The Hanukkah Stabbing Suspect Is Being Charged With Hate Crimes

After prosecutors found anti-Semitic comments in his journals.

Neighbors gather near the rabbi's residence in Monsey, New York, on Sunday. Craig Ruttle/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Federal prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against the man accused of breaking into a New York rabbi’s home with a machete over the weekend and wounding five people who had gone there to celebrate Hanukkah.

After the rampage, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo called an act of domestic terrorism, family members of the suspect, Grafton E. Thomas, said he had no history of anti-Semitism and blamed the incident on mental illness. But in a criminal complaint filed Monday, federal prosecutors point to handwritten journals found by the FBI at Thomas’ home that allegedly contain anti-Semitic comments, including references to Adolf Hitler and “Nazi culture” alongside the star of David and a swastika. In another comment, he asked “why [people] mourned for anti-Semitism when there is Semitic genocide.”

FBI investigators also examined Thomas’ cellphone and internet history, according to the complaint. In online searches, he allegedly asked, “Why did Hitler hate Jews.” He also allegedly looked online for “German Jewish temples near me” and Zionist temples in New Jersey and Staten Island. 

The complaint accuses Thomas of breaking into the rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, on the night of December 28 as dozens of people from a synagogue gathered to light candles for the seventh night of Hanukkah. “No one is leaving,” he said as he entered, his faced covered by a scarf, before taking out his machete. Five people sustained serious injuries, including slash wounds, a severed finger, and a skull fracture, according to the complaint filed in Manhattan by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

The hate crime charges include five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religion in an attempt to kill. State prosecutors have separately charged him with murder and burglary. On December 29, he pleaded not guilty to those charges. “We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness,” his attorney Michael Sussman said in a statement.

The attack is the 13th anti-Semitic incident in three weeks in New York, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. On December 10, four people were fatally shot in a Jersey City kosher grocery store by two gunmen.

Read the full complaint below:

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate