The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Thursday that five additional federal hate-crime charges have been filed against the suspect behind the machete attack on Dec. 28 at a home and prayer hall known as Rabbi Rottenberg’s Shul in Monsey, N.Y., injuring five of the around 100 celebrants at a Hanukkah candle-lighting party.
The new charges against Grafton Thomas, 37, include willfully causing bodily injury to five victims because of the victims’ religion and five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religion in an attempt to kill.
“Since before our founding as a nation and ever since, this country has provided refuge for people from other parts of the world who suffered violence and other forms of persecution because of their right to believe and worship as they see fit,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division.
“The United States remains today a beacon of freedom for persecuted religious people all over the world, and violent attacks against anyone because of religion is both illegal and against everything our nation stands for,” he continued. “The United States Department of Justice will continue to prosecute anyone who engages in such conduct to the fullest extent of the law.”
If convicted, Thomas could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Two days after the attack, Thomas was charged with five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religion in an attempt to kill, a federal hate crime. If convicted on these charges, Thomas could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Separately, Thomas was indicted by a grand jury in Rockland County, N.Y., on six attempted murder charges, as the number of victims in the hate crime increased to six. He was also charged three counts of assault in the first degree, three counts of attempted assault in the first degree and two counts of burglary in the first degree. If convicted, Thomas could face up to 25 years in prison.