National Security

Manhattan DA Declines to Prosecute Anti-Semitic Attack as Hate Crime

(UPDATED) Manhattan DA reconsiders decision following Free Beacon report

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Update Jan. 3 2:33 p.m.: Following the Washington Free Beacon‘s initial report on the decision by the Manhattan DA not to prosecute the attack as a hate crime, which prompted a fierce backlash on social media, the Manhattan DA informed Lihi Aharon's lawyers that they will now present the case as a hate crime before a grand jury in the coming weeks.

"We just received word that the Manhattan District Attorney's Office is reversing course and will be presenting this matter as a hate crime to the grand jury," the Lawfare Project's Goldstein informed the Free Beacon Friday. "We were heartened to see the Jewish community and our allies mobilize so quickly in support for Lihi and grateful the DA took notice of the overwhelming public response."

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The Manhattan district attorney's office has declined to prosecute a recent anti-Semitic attack on a Jewish subway passenger as a hate crime, according to lawyers representing the victim.

Lihi Aharon, an Israeli student riding the New York City subway in December, was attacked by another passenger who cursed at her and yelled "Allahu akbar!" While the attack on Aharon seemed to be motivated by anti-Semitic animus, the Manhattan DA informed lawyers representing Aharon on Thursday that it would not prosecute the case as a hate crime.

The incident is one of several recent anti-Semitic attacks around New York City that have sparked a nationwide conversation about the resurgence of anti-Semitism in America.

"The DA's refusal to prosecute this targeted attack as a hate crime is an egregious miscarriage of justice," Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, which is representing Aharon, said in a statement provided to the Washington Free Beacon.

"The Jewish community is under siege and the DA's office won't even attempt to defend us," Goldstein said. "Allowing acts of hate and violence like what happened to Lihi to go unanswered seeds the ground for more horrible tragedies like we saw in Jersey City and Monsey. We must send a message that religious bigotry and violence targeted against any minority community is not acceptable."

Aharon and a Jewish man she was riding with were attacked after another passenger heard them conversing in Hebrew and saw the man was wearing a yarmulke, according to the victim.

"As soon as I sat, that woman started cursing and yelling at him about him being a Jew and ‘Allahu akbar' and how Allah will end us all," Aharon said in a video she posted online following the attack.

The Manhattan DA decided not to prosecute the attack as a hate crime, or to present the case to a grand jury to decide whether it meets the legal threshold for a hate crime.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan DA's office declined to comment on an "open and pending case," telling the Free Beacon that it will present its decision at the next court date on Jan. 23. This leaves an opening for the DA's office to reverse course and pursue hate crime charges.

Aharon expressed surprise about the decision, particularly in light of similar attacks in the city.

"I was physically attacked and verbally assaulted for being a Jew," Aharon said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. "I was called a ‘nasty Jew.' I was assaulted. And I am one of the lucky ones. So many people in my position, who have faced Jew hatred and anti-Semitic violence, have suffered far worse than I have."

"Other victims of this same hatred and ignorance have literally been murdered in this city in recent weeks," she said. "I am not willing to stand aside to make way for the next attack on members of my community. My assailant made it clear that she hated me because of my faith. I will not stop fighting for justice for myself and for the many people like me who have suffered at the receiving end of anti-Jewish violence."

The DA's decision to decline hate crime prosecution in Aharon's case comes after five Jewish people were stabbed last weekend by an assailant who had a history of researching anti-Semitic agitprop. Prosecutors in that case have filed hate crime charges.

Aharon's lawyers argued in meetings with the Manhattan DA that the case represents a clear example of a hate crime.

Ken Belkin of the Spodek Law Group, who also is working on the case, said the DA's decision to not even allow a grand jury to hear the facts is baffling.

"The Manhattan DA's office is refusing to view this clearly anti-Semitic attack for what it was, an obvious hate crime," Belkin said. "Bafflingly, the DA is not even willing to present the case to a grand jury to determine whether it meets the criteria. Lihi was attacked after speaking Hebrew, conversing with a visibly Jewish man, and enduring anti-Semitic epithets hurled in her direction by the assailant. And it was all captured on video. If this isn't clear evidence of a hate crime, I don't know what is. This is a slap in the face to every Jewish New Yorker."