Horror New Year

Horror New Year

Hanukkah Five stabbing victim in grave condition as authorities block information on suspect.

Lloyd Billingsley

“Hanukkah stabbing victim’s ‘dire’ condition revealed,” headlined the January 1, 2020 Fox News story by Travis Fedschun. The victim was Josef Neumann and according to a statement from his family, “the 70-year-old was stabbed multiple times during the attack, sustaining injuries that included three cuts to the head, one cut to the neck, a shattered right arm, and a knife that penetrated his skull directly into the brain.”

Doctors are not optimistic about Neumann’s chances to regain consciousness, and “if our father does miraculously recover partially, doctors expect that he will have permanent damage to the brain; leaving him partially paralyzed and speech impaired for the rest of his life.”

A photo released Wednesday by the  Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council in Hudson Valley showed the unconscious Neuman with his bloodied and bruised head heavily sutured. The 70-year old was one of five victims of an attack in Monsey, New York, last Saturday at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg.

Shortly before 10 p.m., as the rabbi was lighting the candle on the seventh night of Hanukkah, a man with face partially covered burst into the home and began stabbing people with a machete. The attack claimed five victims, including the rabbi’s son. The suspect was covered in blood when police arrested him in New York City on December 22.

The suspect was identified as Grafton Thomas, 37, an African American from Greenwood Lake, New York. News reports said the suspect’s arrest record had been sealed and the mystery about possible motive continued into 2020.

“Judge mum on why suspect was set free last year,” read the second half of the Fox News headline. As Fedschun revealed, Thomas had “multiple run-ins with law enforcement” including an arrest for “assaulting a police horse.” The judge assigned to the case refused comment, calling it a “sealed case.”

After the attack, New York’s Democrat attorney general Letitia James, proclaimed “zero tolerance for acts of hate of any kind and we will continue to monitor this horrific situation.”

At this writing, James has offered no explanation why the prior case was sealed and district attorneys have declined comment. 

After the Hanukkah stabbings, New York governor Andrew Cuomo cited recent attacks, “motivated by hate. They are doing mass attacks. These are terrorists in our country perpetrating terrorism on other Americans, and that’s how we should treat it and that's how I want the laws in this state to treat it.” At this writing, the governor has made no public demand that the suspect’s previous cases be unsealed.

In similar style, New York authorities have announced no plans to prosecute the case as terrorism. The Southern District of New York is charging Thomas 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. NBC News describes the counts as “federal hate crimes charges.

As Fedschun’s story noted, in journals recovered from his home Thomas questioned, “why ppl mourned for anti-Semitism when there is Semitic genocide,” along with a page with drawings of a Star of David and a swastika. Thomas’ phone revealed repeated internet searches for “Why did Hitler hate the Jews” as well as “German Jewish Temples near me” and “Prominent companies founded by Jews in America.”

Thomas’ court-appointed attorney Susanne Brody claimed the suspect has struggled with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Attorney Michael Sussman, retained by the family, told reporters Thomas had been hearing voices and may have stopped taking psychiatric medications. According to Sussman, nothing found in Thomas’ home pointed to “an anti-Semitic motive.”

According to a statement from Thomas’ family, the suspect has no history of violent acts, no history of anti-Semitism and is not a member of any hate groups. The family did cite a long history of mental illness but an insanity defense could prove difficult.

Such a defense shifts the burden of proof to the accused, who must prove beyond reasonable doubt that he did not know the difference between right and wrong at the time of the crime. The suspect has already exhibited evidence of planning the attack, and according to victims he covered his face with a scarf. His flight from the scene also betrays knowledge of criminal intent.

In 2002, Grafton Thomas joined the U.S. Marine Corps but left the service within a month. Marine Captain Karoline Foote told reporters the Corps was required to keep the details private. President Trump commander in chief of U.S. Armed Forces, might give Capt. Foote a call.  

President Trump condemned the “horrific” attack at the rabbi’s home and tweeted: “We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism. Melania and I wish the victims a quick and full recovery.” At this writing, recovery looks unlikely for Josef Neumann.

Meanwhile, after the attack, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio told Fox News, “An atmosphere of hate has been developing in this country over the last few years. A lot of it is emanating from Washington and it’s having an effect on all of us.” Also after the attack, California Democrat Eric Swalwell tweeted “Anti-Semitism is on the rise in America. And it’s being stoked by @realDonaldTrump who won’t condemn it.”