News Americas, NEW YORK, NY., Tues. Jan. 14, 2020: Guyanese-roots Grafton Thomas, 37, yesterday appeared in White Plains to answer federal hate crime charges – which his lawyer said he is “not guilty” of.
Thomas attended his arraignment in White Plains, NY Monday in orange jail fatigues as members of his family, including his mother and pastor, sat in the courtroom and waved at him.
He spoke only briefly to answer U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Davison’s questions, confirming his name and age and saying that he has taken the drug Prozac.
Thomas told Davison his name and that he had completed high school with some college and that he had taken medication since Sunday, including Prozac, an anti-depressant, and latuda, an anti-psychotic.
“Are you clear in your head as you stand here today?” Davison asked Thomas.
“Yes, your Honor,” Thomas replied.
Thomas, born to Guyana-born mother Kim Thomas, is accused of stabbing at least five people in a machete rampage at the home of Hasidic Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg during a Hanukkah celebration on Saturday, Dec. 28th in Monsey, NY.
Federal prosecutors have said Thomas targeted his victims because of their Jewish faith. In a criminal complaint filed last month, they cited journals they seized from the suspect’s home containing references to Adolf Hitler, Nazi culture and the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, identified by extremism experts as an anti-Jewish hate group.
A federal grand jury indicted Thomas late last week with additional counts of hate crimes for the Dec. 28 stabbing of members of the Orthodox Jewish community, bringing the number of federal charges he faces to 10.
Each count carries a maximum prison term of life.
On Monday, US District Judge Cathy Seibel says Thomas may need attorneys specializing in death penalty cases if the fifth stabbing victim dies.
Thomas also faces state charges for the attack, which his attorney, pointing to his client’s long history of mental illness, has said was likely an expression of psychosis rather than bigotry.
Michael Sussman, who represents Thomas, said he’ll consider asking the judge by January 27th to conclude his client is psychologically unfit for trial. He said a defense expert will visit Thomas a third and final time Friday and then prepare a report.
Thomas is being held without bail on the federal hate crime charges, and $5 million bail was set for him on the attempted murder charges.