Grafton Thomas, the man accused of stabbing five people at a Hanukkah party, has been charged with a federal hate crime, prosecutors said on Monday.
Thomas of Greenwood Lake pleaded not guilty on Sunday to five counts of murder and one count of burglary. NBC News reports that he was charged in the Southern District of New York with five counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs, involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon, and resulting in bodily injury. The 37-year-old is accused of attacking several people with a machete at a Hanukkah celebration in a rabbi’s home in Monsey on Saturday.
When Thomas came into Rabbi Chaim L. Rottenberg’s home, which is next to a synagogue, his face was covered with what appeared to be a scarf, according to the criminal complaint. He told the dozens gathered in the home that “no one is leaving.” The attack ended with five people being wounded. Police arrested the man in Harlem about two hours after the 10 p.m. attack.
After searching for Thomas’s home, police found handwritten journals that allegedly contained anti-Semitic writings. On one page, he had drawn a Star of David and a Swastika and written about “Nazi culture” and “Adolf Hitler,” according to a federal criminal complaint filed Monday. The victims were hospitalized and suffered wounds, including a severed finger, slash wounds, and deep lacerations, prosecutors said. At least one of the victims, who suffered a skull fracture, is in serious condition.
Thomas’ family said in a statement Sunday night that Thomas has “a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations” and that his attorney, Michael H. Sussman, had been instructed to seek “immediate mental health evaluation of Grafton.” On Monday, Sussman said during a news conference that he would describe Thomas as “mentally ill.” He said Thomas had been hospitalized multiple times this year and was on a variety of medications.