Thursday, January 16, 2020

Grafton Thomas to be arraigned in Monsey machete attack 

Grafton Thomas is scheduled to appear in Rockland County Court today to answer multiple charges of trying to kill Jews with a machete after barging into a late December Hanukkah party in Monsey, fracturing the skull of a 72-year-old man who remains comatose.

The 37-year-old Orange County man is set to be arraigned before Judge Kevin Russo after being brought over to the Rockland Courthouse from a Westchester jail cell, where he's being held without bail in federal custody on separate hate crime charges. He pleaded not guilty to the federal charges on Monday in U.S. District Court in White Plains.

Thomas was indicted on felony charges of attempted murder, assault, burglary, and attempted assault. His lawyer, Michael Sussman of Goshen, has previously argued Thomas suffers from mental illnesses and is not responsible for his actions.

Sussman said in federal court Monday that he would seek a competency hearing on whether Thomas is mentally fit to stand trial on the charges contained in a 10-count indictment of trying to kill five men because of their religion and obstructing the free exercise of religion in an attempt to kill them.

The attack occurred on Dec. 28 in Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg's home on Forshay Road. One of the victims, 72-year-old Josef Neumann, is in a coma after his skull was fractured.

If Neumann dies, federal prosecutors said they could seek a death sentence against Thomas. New York state doesn't have capital punishment, as the state statute had been ruled unconstitutional decades ago. He would face a life sentence in New York if convicted but he could end up in a psychiatric facility if found mentally ill and unfit for trial.

Thomas had told federal Magistrate Paul Davison his name and that he had completed high school with some college and that he had taken medication, including Prozac, an anti-depressant, and latuda, an anti-psychotic.


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