Illinois Landlord Pleads Not Guilty to Murder, Hate Crime in Fatal Stabbing of Palestinian Boy

Katabella Roberts
By Katabella Roberts
October 31, 2023US News
Illinois Landlord Pleads Not Guilty to Murder, Hate Crime in Fatal Stabbing of Palestinian Boy
Joseph M. Czuba. (Will County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

An Illinois man charged with stabbing a six-year-old Palestinian boy to death and leaving his mother with serious injuries in what authorities believe was a hate crime motivated by the Israel-Hamas conflict has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Joseph Czuba, a 71-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran, was indicted by a grand jury last week on three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and two counts of hate crime, according to online court records.

He appeared in court on Oct. 30 where he entered the not-guilty plea to all eight counts, his attorney told USA TODAY.

“He’s presumed to be innocent of all the charges, and our job is to make sure that all his constitutional rights are protected and ultimately he receives a fair trial and an impartial jury,” his lawyer George Lenard told the publication.

During Monday’s hearing, Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Fitzgerald argued that Mr. Czuba poses a danger to the public and should remain in jail.

“We also believe he is a threat to the safety of the community,” he said.

However, Mr. Czuba’s attorneys disagreed, noting his client’s age, and the fact that he is a U.S. Air Force veteran without any criminal convictions.

The court agreed with prosecutors and the Plainfield Township landlord remains in jail without bail. He is set to appear in court for another hearing on Jan. 8.

Attack Was ‘Hate Crime’

NTD Photo
Wadea Al-Fayoume poses in an undated family photograph obtained by Reuters on Oct. 15, 2023. (CAIR/Handout via Reuters)

Prosecutors say Mr. Czuba stabbed Hanan Shahin, 32, and her son Wadea Al-Fayoume multiple times with a 12-inch serrated military-style knife with a seven-inch blade at their home in the Chicago suburb of Plainfield, Illinois, on Oct. 14.

Mr. Czuba, who was their landlord, was allegedly motivated to stab the mother and son because of their Muslim faith and in response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, a terrorist organization.

According to prosecutors, Ms. Shahin, who is Palestinian-American, told police that she had spoken with Mr. Czuba before he attacked her and that the landlord was upset over the war between Israel and Hamas.

She told police that she had suggested the two “pray for peace” before he launched his brutal attack.

According to authorities, Mr. Czuba stabbed Ms. Shahin’s young son 26 times and stabbed her “over a dozen” times. Both were rushed to hospital on the day of the attack but the six-year-old—who had only recently celebrated his birthday—later died from his injuries.

FBI, DOJ Probing Stabbing

Ms. Shahin was later released from hospital after recovering from her extensive injuries. She was unable to attend her son’s funeral on Oct. 16 due to her serious injuries.

The attack is now being investigated by the Department of Justice as a hate crime.

In an Oct. 15 news release, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the latest attack “cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence.”

“The Department of Justice is focused on protecting the safety and the civil rights of every person in this country. We will use every legal authority at our disposal to bring to justice those who perpetrate illegal acts of hate. No one in the United States of America should have to live in fear of violence because of how they worship or where they or their family come from,” Mr. Garland said.

The FBI has also launched an investigation into the stabbing incident, which also comes amid a rise in antisemitic attacks by people on the other side of the conflict who have also chosen to respond in violence.

According to family members, Ms. Shahin moved to the United States from the West Bank 12 years ago and her husband moved to the United States nine years ago.

Their son, Wadea, was born in the United States, and the family rented rooms from Mr. Czuba for the past two years.

Ms. Shahin recently spoke about the loss of her son, whom she described as her “best friend” and asked the general public to “pray for peace,” amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The mother added that while she harbors “no hatred” towards Mr. Czuba despite the attack, she believes justice must be served.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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