US prosecutors have filed hate crime charges against a man accused of a stabbing rampage at a Hanukkah party at a rabbi’s home near New York City, citing his journals containing references to Adolf Hitler and “Nazi Culture.”
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed the charges.
A day earlier the suspect, Grafton Thomas, was arraigned on five counts of attempted murder in a state court in the town of Ramapo.
Thomas is accused of stabbing five people on Saturday night with what the criminal complaint described as a “machete” after bursting into a Hanukkah celebration that included dozens of people at Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg’s home in Monsey, about 48km north of New York City.
The town is in Rockland County, home to a large Orthodox Jewish community.
The suspect was expected to appear at a federal court in White Plains on Monday afternoon to face five counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill and use of a dangerous weapon resulting in bodily harm.
Handwritten journals confiscated from the suspect’s Greenwood Lake, New York, home contained anti-semitic sentiments including “referring to ‘Adolf Hitler’ and ‘Nazi culture'” as well as a drawing of a swastika, FBI agent Julie Brown said in the complaint.
She said his mobile phone was used to search “Why did Hitler hate the Jews”.
Brown also said the phone showed searches for Jewish temples in Elizabeth, New Jersey and Staten Island and for prominent American companies founded by Jews.
The complaint identifies the victims of Saturday’s attack only by initials. Four of the five people stabbed were released after being treated at a local hospital. One was still hospitalised with a skull fracture, officials said.
Thomas’ family said through his lawyer he had a long history of mental illness, no known history of anti-Semitism and no prior convictions.
On Friday, New York City’s police department said it was stepping up patrols in heavily Jewish neighbourhoods. Commissioner Dermot Shea told a Sunday news conference the city had seen a 21 per cent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes this year.
On October 27, 2018, a gunman killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest anti-semitic attack in US history.