Hanukkah Machete Suspect Indicted in New York on 6 Counts of Attempted Murder

By Reuters
January 4, 2020US News
Hanukkah Machete Suspect Indicted in New York on 6 Counts of Attempted Murder
Grafton Thomas is led from Ramapo Town Hall in Ramapo, New York, following his arraignment on Dec. 29, 2019. (Seth Harrison/The Journal News via AP)

NEW YORK—The man accused of going on a machete rampage at the New York-area home of a Hasidic rabbi during a Hanukkah celebration was indicted on Friday on six counts of attempted murder, up from five counts the suspect was charged with previously.

The indictment also charges Grafton Thomas, 37, with three counts of assault, three counts of attempted assault, and two counts of burglary stemming from the Dec. 28 attack, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Walsh announced at a brief news conference.

The original criminal complaint filed the day after the assault charged Thomas with five counts of attempted murder—one for each victim authorities then said was stabbed or slashed in the incident—plus a single count of burglary.

Walsh declined to take questions from reporters, and a copy of the indictment was not immediately provided.

But the sixth attempted-murder count indicates investigators have revised their tally of victims, the most gravely injured of whom is reported to be a 72-year-old man who suffered machete blows to his head, leaving him partially paralyzed, comatose, and breathing on a respirator.

Thomas is accused of storming into the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, a prominent Hasidic Jewish leader in a predominantly ultra-Orthodox community of Monsey, New York, and attacking guests gathered there for a Hanukkah celebration.

A New York Police Department vehicle parks at Fifth Avenue Synagogue
A New York Police Department vehicle parks at Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York, on Dec. 30, 2019. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

Authorities said Thomas fled by car to Manhattan, where he was arrested later that night.

Thomas, who according to his lawyer is a former U.S. Marine with a history of severe mental illness, was separately charged on Monday with federal hate crimes in connection with the attack.

Federal prosecutors cited journals they seized from the suspect’s home containing references to Adolf Hitler, “Nazi culture,” and the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, identified by experts in extremism as an anti-Jewish hate group.

The attack in Monsey capped a string of incidents in which Jews have been physically attacked or accosted in the New York metropolitan area in recent weeks, including a shooting at a kosher supermarket in New Jersey that left two members of the Hasidic community dead.

“Fear has spread through our community, and we must restore peace. This is the first stop in that process,” Walsh told reporters.

Thomas’s attorney, Michael Sussman, has said his client’s actions were likely an expression of psychosis rather than bigotry.

Thomas pleaded not guilty to the original attempted-murder charges the day after his arrest.

His arraignment on the indictment is pending, and he remains held in lieu of $5 million bails after being moved to a federal detention facility, the District Attorney’s office said in a statement. He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the state charges. The felony case carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

By Jonathan Allen 

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