Federal prosecutors on Monday filed federal hate-crime charges against the man who allegedly burst into a rabbi’s home on Saturday night with a machete and wounded five people, writing in a criminal complaint that he had a journal filled with anti-Semitic sentiments.
Grafton Thomas, 38, was arrested hours after he allegedly attacked guests at a celebration of the seventh night of Hanukkah at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in a hamlet northwest of New York City called Monsey. Thomas was initially charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of first-degree burglary.
FBI Special Agent Julie Brown wrote in the hate-crime complaint that Thomas entered the home just before 10 p.m. with his face covered in a scarf and said, “No one is leaving.” According to the complaint, in the ensuing attack, victims suffered severed fingers, slash wounds, deep lacerations, and at least one skull fracture. One person is said to remain hospitalized in critical condition.
The patrol officers who arrested Thomas just hours later in Harlem said he smelled of bleach and was covered with blood on his jacket, clothing, and hands, the criminal complaint alleges. In the car, officers allegedly found an 18-inch Ozark Trail machete covered in dried blood, another knife with dried blood and hair on it, and a cell phone.
On his phone, officers allegedly found searches for “Why did Hitler hate the Jews” on Nov. 9, Dec. 3, Dec. 7, and Dec. 6. They also found searches for “Roman Jewish Temples near me” last month and “Zionist Temples of Staten Island” on Dec. 18. Most recently, his phone’s internet browser was used on Dec. 28, the night of the attack, to read an article titled: “New York City Increases Police Presence in Jewish Neighborhoods After Possible Anti-Semitic Attacks. Here’s What To Know.”
Once authorities searched his home, they allegedly found the packaging for the machete and handwritten journals that contained anti-Semitic sentiments. Thomas purportedly wrote that “Hebrew Israelites” took from “powerful people (ebinoid Israelites),” which Brown noted was likely a reference to the “Black Hebrew Israelite” movement.
Thomas also allegedly wrote that he didn’t understand why “ppl mourned for anti-Semitism when there is Semitic genocide.” He allegedly wrote about Adolf Hitler and about “Nazi Culture” on the same page where he drew a Swastika and a Star of David.
Thomas pleaded not guilty to all charges on Sunday morning at his arraignment in Ramapo, New Jersey. His family put out a statement over the weekend claiming he had no history of anti-Semitism, violent behavior, or prior convictions. They have asked for Thomas’ new attorney to seek a mental-health evaluation for Thomas, who they said has “a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations.”
His longtime pastor told the New York Post that Thomas “is not a violent person, he is a confused person.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered the State Police hate-crimes task force to investigate and called the attack a “blatant act of domestic terrorism that sought to inflict violence, incite hate and generate fear.”
After a series of anti-Semitic incidents in New York City and a deadly mass shooting at a kosher market in Jersey City, police have also reportedly stepped up patrols in Jewish neighborhoods and placed officers in front of synagogues in both New York and New Jersey.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called it “a crisis.”
“Really, there is a growing anti-Semitism problem in this whole country. It has taken a more and more violent form,” he said.