The man accused of stabbing five people with a machete during a Hanukkah celebration in New York last month pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges and claimed that he was on Prozac at the time of the attack during his arraignment on Monday. The federal indictment charged Grafton Thomas with five counts of attempting to kill victims based on their religion and obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs by attempting to kill. Thomas, 37, also faces state charges in the Dec. 28 attack inside the home of a rabbi in Monsey, and he is being held without bail on the federal charges. Thomas’ defense attorney, Michael Sussman, previously said that Thomas has a long history of mental illness and has requested that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Authorities said that journals written by Thomas contained anti-Semitic references. The Dec. 28 attack came amid a string of anti-Semitic attacks targeting Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey. When asked by Magistrate Judge Paul Davison if he is “satisfied” that Thomas understands the indictment, Sussman replied, “No your honor. He understands it to the extent he understands it.”