The man accused of stabbing five people during a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, New York, has been charged with federal hate crimes. Investigators discovered hand-written journals, which included references to Hitler, and said that he used his cell phone to search for “Zionist Temples” in New Jersey, and Staten Island.
In addition to the hate crime charges, Grafton Thomas, 38, is facing five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary and is being held on a $5 million bond. Police say he stormed into the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, who was celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah with around 100 members of his ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish congregation. Thomas started slashing the terrified worshippers and injured five people before fleeing the house.
Thomas' family issued a statement denying that he is anti-Semitic. They said that he has a lengthy history of mental illness and is not a member of any hate group.
"Grafton Thomas has a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations," his family said in a statement. "He has no history of like violent acts and no convictions for any crime. He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races. He is not a member of any hate groups."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called the attack an act of domestic terrorism.
"Let me be clear: anti-Semitism and bigotry of any kind are repugnant to our values of inclusion and diversity, and we have absolutely zero tolerance for such acts of hate," he said in a statement. "In New York, we will always stand up and say with one voice to anyone who wishes to divide and spread fear: you do not represent New York, and your actions will not go unpunished."
Thomas pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his family blamed his mental illness for the attack.
"We have instructed Mr. Thomas’s newly retained attorney, Michael H. Sussman, to seek immediate mental health evaluation of Grafton," Thomas' family said. "We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness for which, as noted above, Grafton has received episodic treatment before being released."
The FBI is helping with the investigation and is looking into whether Thomas was responsible for a stabbing in November near a synagogue in Spring Valley, which neighbors Monsey.
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