Cornell student accused of threatening to kill Jewish students will remain behind bars

By | November 2, 2023

Syracuse, New York

Cornell University student accused of posting death threats online members of the university’s Jewish community appeared in federal court Wednesday and was ordered to remain behind bars for the time being.

Patrick Dai, a 21-year-old student at the Ivy League school, was arrested Tuesday and federally charged with “disseminating threats to kill or harm another person using interstate communications,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced. Northern District of New York. The charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Dai appeared in a Syracuse courtroom wearing orange prison garb with his wrists shackled. He did not plead.

He responded, “Yes, your honor” several times after being questioned by the judge. Dai remained impassive throughout the hearing, which lasted about 10 minutes. His mother was sitting in the second row.

The prosecution decided to detain Dai based on risk of danger and flight risk, and Dai’s defense attorney, Gabrielle DiBella, waived her client’s right to a timely detention hearing. He was released into the custody of U.S. Marshals.

DiBella declined to comment after the hearing. Dai is expected to return to court on November 15.

Prosecutors say Dai posted messages on an online chat room in which he threatened to kill and harm Cornell’s Jewish students and “shoot up” the university’s predominantly kosher dining hall, 104 West.

In one post, Dai wrote that he would “bring an assault rifle onto campus” and shoot Jews, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Broome County Sheriff’s Office

Cornell University student Patrick Dai is accused of making online threats against the school’s Jewish community.

The messages were written under usernames referring to Hamas and used anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian slogans, according to an affidavit attached to the criminal complaint.

The violent threats surfaced amid a spike in anti-Semitism incidents as the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group rages in the Middle East. Such incidents in the United States increased by nearly 400% in the days following Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, the Anti-Defamation League said, and anti-Semitism is reaching staggering proportions. “historical levels” in the USA, Christopher Wray, Director of the FBI » a Senate panel said Tuesday. Acts of pro-Palestinian vandalism have reportedly shaken Jewish communities in recent days in Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Rhode Island.

The Biden administration this week announced new measures aimed at combating anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses, with the president saying he was “very” concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism. Beyond Cornell, the editor of Yale’s student newspaper apologized this week for deleting references in two editorials about the attack on Israel to allegations of rape and beheadings by Hamas.

Cornell canceled all classes Friday “in recognition of the extraordinary stress of the past few weeks,” school spokeswoman Rebecca Valli told CNN.

University President Martha Pollack also shared a message with the school community Friday about fight against anti-Semitism and hatred.

Pollack said the school would respond “quickly and forcefully” to any threats of inciting violence and outlined some steps the school plans to take in the future.

“We will not tolerate anti-Semitism at Cornell; Indeed, we will not tolerate any form of hatred, including racism or Islamophobia,” Pollack said in the statement. message.

Dai allegedly posted at least one threat from the Ithaca, New York area — where Cornell’s campus is located — and admitted to posting the threatening messages during an interview with the FBI, according to the affidavit.

The FBI submitted an emergency disclosure request to the website where Dai allegedly posted threats to “obtain and identify subscriber information” associated with the poster, according to the affidavit.

The website where the messages appeared told the FBI that at least two messages were associated with two different IP addresses in New York. CNN confirmed that the first IP address was in the Pittsford, New York area. The FBI, in its affidavit, said it was “an individual and residence affiliated with Dai.”

Dai is originally from Pittsford and attended Pittsford Mendon High School, a school spokesperson said.

The FBI did not release the second IP address, but in the affidavit it said it was from Ithaca.

Dai admitted to posting threatening messages during an interview with the FBI at the Cornell Police Department on Tuesday after receiving Miranda warnings, the complaint states.

In an interview with the New York PostDai’s parents said he suffered from severe depression dating back to 2021 and had no history of violence.

The father, who asked that his name not be used, told the Post in a text exchange that Dai stopped communicating with his parents days before his arrest and around the time the anti-Semitic threats were made on an online discussion forum.

He said his wife had traveled to Ithaca to see their son, but he had already been arrested.

David Bauder/AP

A New York State Police cruiser is parked in front of the Center for Jewish Life at Cornell University on Monday.

After the threats were published Sunday, Cornell University police stepped up patrols and increased security for students and Jewish organizations, the agency said. New York State Police have increased their security presence on campus, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

At Cornell, Jewish students make up about 22 percent of the student body, with about 3,000 Jewish undergraduate students and 500 Jewish graduate students, according to the school office. Hillel Organization. As awareness of threatening messages online spread Sunday evening, Cornell Hillel warned students and staff to avoid 104 West “out of an abundance of caution.”

The threats stoked fear and anxiety among Cornell’s Jewish community, which was already feeling uneasy after several campus sidewalks were vandalized with anti-Israel graffiti last week, according to the newspaper. student, The Cornell Review.

“Jewish students on campus right now are incredibly terrified for their lives,” said Molly Goldstein, co-president of the Cornell Center for Jewish Living. told CNN. “I never imagined this would happen on my college campus.”

Cornell said some classes may offer remote learning options, in an effort to keep people safe.

The university will continue to maintain enhanced security on campus, according to a statement from Joel M. Malina, vice president for university relations.

“Cornell University is grateful to the FBI for working so quickly to identify and apprehend the suspect in this case, a Cornell student, who remains in custody,” Malina said in a statement. “We remain shocked and condemn these horrific anti-Semitic threats and believe they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. »

Cornell University President Martha E. Pollack in a previous statement said the school “will not tolerate anti-Semitism.”

“During my tenure as president, I have repeatedly spoken out against bigotry and hatred, both on and off our campus,” Pollack said. “The virulence and destructiveness of anti-Semitism is real and has a profound impact on our Jewish students, faculty and staff, as well as the entire Cornell community. This incident highlights the need to combat the forces that divide us and drive us to hatred. This cannot be what defines us at Cornell.

New York authorities take reported acts of hatred against Jewish, Palestinian and Muslim residents very seriously, Hochul told CNN on Tuesday.

American Arabs and Jews: How has the war between Israel and Hamas changed you?

“Whether it’s a Jewish student or a Palestinian or a Muslim, people are living in enormous distress right now and the emotional toll of these hate crimes is cruel and must stop,” the governor said to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“People feel so vulnerable going to their synagogues or their mosques or their courtyards,” she said. “That’s not what New Yorkers are.”

At a news conference Wednesday, Hochul said she wanted to “make an example of Dai” and was looking into whether he would face charges at both the state and federal level. federal.

“We’re going to take these cases to the end to make sure people know you can’t get away with this here in New York state,” she said.

CNN’s Jessica Xing, Elizabeth Wolfe, Paul P. Murphy, Maria Campinoti, Dakin Andone, Chris Boyette, Andy Rose, Caroll Alvarado, Artemis Moshtaghian, Zenebou Sylla and Michelle Watson contributed to this report.

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