Monsey, New York: Grafton Thomas, 37, a black man, is accused of entering a Hanukkah party at a rabbi’s house and slashing five victims. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the machete attack a “blatant act of domestic terrorism that sought to inflict violence, incite hate and generate fear.” Authorities charged Thomas with a federal crime, obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill, after authorities discovered anti-Semitic journal entries in his home that appears to reference the Black Hebrew Israelites. Several weeks ago, two shooters killed three people in Jersey City and the male shooter also was affiliated with the Black Hebrew Israelites who believe they are God’s chosen people and other Jews are impostors. Thomas’ lawyer claims the suspect has suffered from depression and psychosis for years and may have been off of his meds during the attack. -GEG
The man accused of barging into a rabbi’s Monsey, New York, home and stabbing five people at a Hanukkah party with a machete has a “long history of mental illness and hospitalizations,” his family and attorney said.
Grafton Thomas, 37, has suffered from depression and psychosis for years, said his lawyer, Michael Sussman, and was hospitalized several times in 2019.
Sussman said he’s talked to Thomas since his arrest. Thomas said that on the night of the stabbings, he heard a “voice talking to him about a piece of property that he understood was in that house,” Sussman told CNN. But Sussman did not say what kind of property Thomas was looking for.
Thomas talked about “various auditory hallucinations and one might say ‘demons, ‘ ” Sussman said. “His explanations were not terribly coherent.”
Thomas’s family issued a statement saying in part, “We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness for which. … Grafton has received episodic treatment before being released.”
Governor calls attack a ‘blatant act of domestic terrorism’
Public officials denounced the attack as an act of hate, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the machete attack a “blatant act of domestic terrorism that sought to inflict violence, incite hate and generate fear.”
Thomas has pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder. Federal authorities on Monday charged Thomas with obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill, a federal hate crime, after authorities discovered anti-Semitic journal entries in his home.
Thomas, a resident of Greenwood Lake, New York, is being held on $5 million bond on the attempted murder charges. A federal judge ordered him detained after his arraignment on Monday.
A federal public defender told a judge Thomas was taking medications and has “issues with bipolar and schizophrenia.” Sussman told CNN Thomas might have stopped taking his medications.
Sussman said he’s seeking a thorough psychiatric evaluation for his client.
The journal entries
The journals found in the suspect’s home led to the hate crime charges.
One entry said “Hebrew Israelites” took from the “powerful ppl (ebinoid Israelites)” and questioned “why ppl mourned for anti-Semitism when there is Semitic genocide.” The criminal complaint said “ebinoid Israelites” appears to be a reference to the “Black Hebrew Israelite” movement.
Sussman said he had not seen those journal entries but had reviewed earlier writings by Thomas. Those writings reflect the “ramblings of a disturbed individual” but contain “no suggestion … of an anti-Semitic motive, of any anti-Semitism,” Sussman said.
When asked if Thomas was involved in the “Black Hebrew Israelite” movement, Sussman said he’d heard nothing that indicated that.
A man suspected of killing a police officer and three people at a kosher market in Jersey City, New Jersey, this month, has been linked to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, a law enforcement official said.
The Black Hebrew Israelite movement comprises groups or members that have expressed anti-Semitic sentiments, however the Southern Poverty Law Center does not recognize the overall movement as a hate group.
But SPLC lists dozens of groups within the Black Hebrew Israelite movement as hate groups because its worldview and rhetoric are informed by bigotry against whites and Jews, according to Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC Intelligence Project.
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