Hanukkah Stabbing Suspect Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Hate Crime Charges

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By NTD Newsroom
January 15, 2020US News
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Hanukkah Stabbing Suspect Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Hate Crime Charges
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)

The suspect in the Dec. 28 machete attack on Jewish congregants during a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, pleaded not guilty to five federal hate crime charges.

Granton Thomas, 37, has been in custody since his arrest the night after he allegedly attacked at least five people using a machete. He made a short appearance in court in White Plains, New York, yesterday to hear his arraignment, Reuters reported.

Yesterday’s charges were five additional federal charges added to the five counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill—also a hate crime—he already received on Jan. 3. Thomas pleaded not guilty to any of those.

With the new charges, based on the assumption of religious motivations for Thomas’s attack, Thomas now faces 10 different criminal charges, each of which may carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

If one of his victims may die—which is still very possible given the state of a 72-year-old man who incurred several strikes to his head, arm, and neck and who is still in a coma—Thomas may face the death penalty. In that case, Thomas is allowed to add another lawyer to his defense team, preferably someone who has dealt with death sentences before.

Meanwhile, his attorney Michael Sussman said Thomas has a “long history of mental illness and hospitalizations,” according to CNN. Sussman, therefore, asked the court to have his client psychologically tested to establish whether he can stand trial in the first place.

Sussman said he has no opinion on his client’s competency to stand trial, but based on the talks he had with Thomas, he believes there is sufficient justification to file such a request, the outlet reported.

“There are significant cognition process and comprehension issues,” Sussman told reporters after the trial, Reuters reported.

If Sussman wishes to file a competency motion, he needs to do so before Jan. 27, Judge Paul E. Davison said. If the request is granted, a competency hearing will be scheduled for March 25.

The attack occurred around 10 p.m. on Dec. 28 at a local rabbi’s house.

Grafton Thomas
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)

Five people with stab wounds were transported to local hospitals. Two of them were in critical condition, with reports that one victim was stabbed in the chest.

Yossi Gestetner, a co-founder and spokesperson for the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council told local media that Rabbi Rottenberg is a popular leader in the local Hasidic Orthodox Jewish community. He was leading a candle-lighting ceremony for the seventh night of Hanukkah when Thomas reportedly charged into his house.

His house is located next to the local synagogue in Monsey—a place where a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews live.

Pix 11 reported that NYPD officers arrested Thomas while he was in his vehicle in Harlem, about 30 miles south of Monsey.

Epoch Times reporter Melanie Sun and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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