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New York man accused of anti-Semitic attacks pleads guilty to hate crime charge


A Staten Island man, Saadah Masoud, who was charged with carrying out a series of attacks on Jews in New York City in 2021 and 2022, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal charge of conspiracy for hate crimes.

One of Mr Masoud’s victims had marched along a pro-Palestinian demonstration in midtown Manhattan in April, while carrying a large Israeli flag wrapped around his neck and draped across his back. Mr Masoud, who was one of the protesters, told his victim: “I have something for you, wait until we are private”, according to authorities.

Mr Masoud eventually punched the man repeatedly in the head and face and dragged him to a sidewalk, an indictment alleges.

The indictment also accuses Mr. Masoud of assaulting two other men, in separate attacks, in 2021. One wore a necklace with a Star of David, while the other wore associated traditional clothing. to the Jewish religion, including a skullcap, the indictment says.

“Saadah Masoud deliberately targeted three victims because of their religion and nation of origin,” Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “There is no place in this country for this offensive and hateful conduct.”

A federal judge, Denise L. Cote of the Manhattan Federal District Court, said she would sentence Mr. Masoud, who could face up to five years in prison, on March 3.

Mr Masoud’s guilty plea comes as authorities increasingly focus on episodes of anti-Semitism and extremist violence in New York and elsewhere.

Just last week, two men were arrested at Pennsylvania Station in New York after an investigation into what city police commissioner Keechant L. Sewell described as a “growing threat to the Jewish community” . Authorities seized an eight-inch military-style knife and an illegally detained weapon with a 30-round magazine from the men. Law enforcement officials said threats of violence, including a synagogue shooting, were discovered on social media posts linked to one of the men.

On Tuesday, Mr. Masoud told Judge Côté that he “repeatedly punched” the man carrying the Israeli flag “because I perceived him to be an Israeli.”

Mr. Masoud said he could not discern the race or ethnicity of the man, but he had an Israeli flag.

“He was protesting, and I will admit that I assaulted him,” Mr Masoud said.

Mr Masoud’s victim, Matt Greenman, was left with a swollen and bruised face and was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.

Mr. Greenman, who described the attack in an interview with PIX11, said he went to see the pro-Palestinian demonstration, which was held near 42nd Street and First Avenue.

“I just wanted to go see what it was all about,” Mr. Greenman, who is Jewish, said in the interview. “I had the Israeli flag on my back as a cape.”

As some of the walkers began to circle around him, Mr. Greenman said, his attacker “grabbed me from behind; he knocked me down. He hit me in the face.

“He kicked me in the face a whole bunch,” he said.

Gerard Filitti, an attorney who represents Mr. Greenman on behalf of the Lawfare Project, a nonprofit group that says it defends “the civil and human rights of Jewish people,” called Mr. Masoud’s guilty plea a significant development.

“It’s not every day that the Department of Justice tackles a hate crime targeting Jews,” Filitti said. “It sends a clear message that violent crimes targeting the Jewish community will not be tolerated.”

In court, Mr Masoud also told Judge Cote that he punched the man wearing the Star of David necklace because he thought he was Israeli.

Ronald L. Kuby, a lawyer for Mr. Masoud, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that his client’s “extended family over the generations has suffered horribly at the hands of the Israeli government, and much of that has been passed down to him.” “.

Mr Kuby added: ‘That explains – but does not justify – his conduct.

During the hearing, a federal prosecutor, Lindsey Keenan, told Judge Cote that prosecutors had recently learned that Mr. Masoud may have “contacted and threatened someone he believes to be a government witness.” Ms Keenan said her office was investigating and she raised the possibility of the government asking the judge to revoke Mr Masoud’s bail.

The judge warned Mr. Masoud not to have any direct or indirect contact with anyone he perceived to be a government witness.

Mr Masoud’s case was the first to be charged by a newly created civil rights unit within the Southern District Criminal Division, spokesman Nicholas Biase said.

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