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Hanukkah stabbing suspect pleads not guilty to federal hate crime chargesPosted: Updated:
The man accused of stabbing five people during a Hanukkah celebration pleaded not guilty Monday to formal federal hate crime charges.
A federal grand jury indicted Grafton Thomas, 37, with five counts of willfully causing bodily injury to six victims because of the victims' religion and five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religion in an attempt to kill.
All of the charges are related to the machete attack at a rabbi's home in Monsey during Hanukkah back on Dec. 28.
According to the allegations in the grand jury indictment, Thomas entered the home and stated "no one is leaving" before attacking the group with an 18-inch machete. Five people were hospitalized with serious injuries.
Grafton was later arrested in Harlem, and investigators say they found handwritten journals with anti-Semitic references.
Defense attorney Michael Sussman says he wants to determine if Thomas is competent to stand trial. He is awaiting a report from a psychiatrist before making the motion in court.
Sussman previously stated that Thomas has a long history of mental illness and was hearing voices the night of the attack.
On Monday, News 12 learned that Thomas told the judge he is now taking Prozac and Latuda. Sussman previously stated that he was off medication the night of the attack.
"As an officer of the court I feel that I have the responsibility to convey where I have doubts in understanding the comprehension that exist and from my communication with the gentleman I do have those doubts," says Sussman.
In court, News 12 learned Thomas could face the death penalty if one of the victims of the attack dies. Joseph Neuman remains in a coma, and his family says its unlikely he will regain consciousness.
Thomas also faces state charges. He is being held without bail on the federal charges.
The defense has until Jan. 27 to decide whether they will pursue a competency hearing.