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Hanukkah Suspect Had Troubling Phone Searches

Grafton Thomas is charged with hate crimes after 5 people were stabbed at rabbi's house
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 30, 2019 1:12 PM CST

(Newser) – The man accused of stabbing five people inside a rabbi's house during a Hanukkah celebration has been charged with federal hate crimes, reports NBC News. In the criminal complaint against Grafton Thomas, 37, authorities say they found handwritten journals in which Thomas expressed anti-Semitic views and made references to Hitler and Nazis, reports the New York Times. Recent searches on his phone were "Why did Hitler hate the Jews, "German Jewish Temples near me," and "Prominent companies founded by Jews in America." Police arrested Thomas in Harlem Saturday night, about two hours after the attack inside a home in the Jewish enclave of Monsey, New York.

  • Mental illness: Thomas' family says he has a long history of mental illness, including schizophrenia. "He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races," says a family statement, which blames the attack on his "profound mental illness," per the Wall Street Journal. An aunt tells the AP that Thomas had not been taking his medication recently. "They're making him look like this monster,” she says. "My nephew is not a monster. He's just sick. He just needs help."

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  • The injuries: Of the five people injured in the attack by machete and knife, one person was still in critical condition with a skull fracture, says the criminal complaint. It also lists a severed finger, slash wounds, and a deep lacerations as among the injuries.
  • The mayor: Speaking to NPR Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke about the rash of recent anti-Semitic attacks in the New York City area but said the problem is bigger than that. “We consider this a crisis," he said. "Really, there is a growing anti-Semitism problem in this whole country. It has taken a more and more violent form." He said the city will have schools begin an "intensified curriculum" on anti-Semitism this week.
  • Where's the outrage? In the Atlantic, Benjamin Wittes writes that reaction to these latest attacks has been muted in the mainstream Jewish community, and he suggests that discrimination against Orthodox Jews is at play. "Why the comparatively mild response? For many American Jews, the answer is that these aren’t 'our' kind of Jews—and the attackers aren’t motivated by the kind of anti-Semitism we most want to talk about." He denounces what he calls this "selective outage" to anti-Semitism.
  • Arrested again: A Brooklyn woman accused of slapping three Orthodox Jewish women last week was released from jail on Saturday and arrested again on Sunday after allegedly assaulting another woman, reports the New York Post. It was not immediately clear if the latest victim was Jewish. Tiffany Harris, in her 30s, was charged with attempted assault as a hate crime after the first incident, per NBC New York.
(Read more hate crimes stories.)

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