Suspect in Hanukkah stabbing cites mental illness

Grafton Thomas reportedly facing hate crimes charges

Five people who were celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah were stabbed late Saturday in New York.

The attorney of a man accused of stabbing five people Saturday night during a New York Hanukkah celebration is citing the suspect’s mental illness as a factor in the incident.

Grafton Thomas has pleaded innocent to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. Thomas is accused of stabbing multiple people around 10 p.m. as they gathered to celebrate Hanukkah at a rabbi’s home in an Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City.

Federal prosecutors have filed hate crimes charges against Thomas, according to The New York Times.

Thomas’ bail was set at $5 million, and he is due back in court on Friday in Ramapo Town Court.

On Sunday night, Thomas’ attorney released a statement, citing his client’s “long history of metal illness and hospitalizations.” His attorney also said Thomas has no history of antisemitism.

On Sunday morning, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared the attack “an act of domestic terror.”

“Let me be clear: anti-Semitism and bigotry of any kind are repugnant to our values of inclusion and diversity and we have absolutely zero tolerance for such acts of hate,” Cuomo said. “In New York we will always stand up and say with one voice to anyone who wishes to divide and spread fear: you do not represent New York and your actions will not go unpunished.”

Cuomo visited the site of the attack Sunday morning.

The attack drew condemnation from top state officials, including Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James, as well as from Israel’s president and prime minister.

“Israel unequivocally condemns the recent expressions of anti-Semitism and the vicious attack in the middle of Hanukkah on the rabbi’s house in Monsey, New York,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “We send our wishes of recovery to the wounded. We will cooperate in every way with the local authorities in order to defeat this phenomenon. We offer our help to each and every state.”

The Saturday night stabbings came on the heels of a string of attacks targeting Jews over Christmas in the New York metropolitan area, including a massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey earlier this month.

On Friday, when a hoodie-wearing man walked into the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters and threatened to shoot up the place. The man then walked away. Police haven’t made an arrest.

Also Friday morning, a group of three Jewish women reported being harassed and slapped in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. One woman, Tiffany Harris, 30, was arrested.

On Thursday night, a 34-year-old woman and her 4-year-old son were attacked in Brooklyn while walking out of a Dunkin’ Donuts. The woman was struck in the head. The victim called 911, and a Good Samaritan and a friend followed the alleged attacker. Police arrested a homeless woman in connection with the incident.

On the Monday before Christmas, a 65-year-old man wearing a yarmulke was punched in the face after the suspect made an anti-Semitic remark, then was kicked while on the ground. One man was arrested and charged afterward.

On Christmas Eve morning, a 25-year-old Jewish man walking on a Crown Heights sidewalk was approached by a large group of people. The man told police the group yelled a racial slur before throwing a Slurpee at him.

Later on Christmas Eve, a man was standing in front of a Crown Heights building when he was allegedly attacked by a group of as many as six people. The man told police one person in the group punched him in the back of his head. The group then reportedly ran off.

On Christmas Day, a 40-year-old man was reportedly punched in the face on 13th Avenue in Borough Park.

Earlier this month, six people, including two attackers, were killed during an hours-long shooting spree in Jersey City, N.J. One of the victims was a police officer who was responding to a shooting at a kosher supermarket.

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