Monsey machete attack: Grafton Thomas found unfit for trial on attempted murder, hate charges – Lohud

Posted By on April 22, 2020

The funeral of Josef Neumann at Viznitz Cemetery in Spring Valley March 30, 2020. Neumann, 72, died from his injuries suffered in Monsey Hanukkah machete attack. Rockland/Westchester Journal News

An earlier version of thisarticle incorrectly reported that a federal judge approved a request to exhume the body of Josef Neumann, who died after being injured in a machete attack. Ithas beencorrected to note that the judge agreed to allow suspect Grafton Thomas'attorney to seek federal money to hire a forensic pathologist for a potential autopsy. The attorney, Michael Sussman, has a motion pending in Rockland County court seeking an autopsy to establish Neumann's official cause of death.

Grafton Thomas has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial on federal attempted murder and hate crime charges involving the machete attack on Hasidic Jews attending a December Hanukkah party at a rabbi's house in Monsey.

Josef Neumann, 72, died from head and body wounds in the Dec. 28 attack at the Forshay Road house. Five others were injured inthe attack that led tofederal and Rockland County criminal charges against the 37-year-old Orange County resident.

Grafton Thomas, with his attorney Michael Sussman, appears at an arraignment in Rockland County Court in New City Jan. 16, 2020. He was charged with a machete attack on Hanukkah party goers in Monsey.(Photo: Peter Carr/The Journal News)

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U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel ordered that Thomas be held in a hospital for treatment notto exceed four months. He is not cleared of the charges against him, andSeibel wrotein a decision dated Sunday that he will be heldto determine whether there is a substantial probability that in the foreseeable future he will be able to understand the chargesand assist in his own defense.

The order states the federal Bureau of Prisons must provide Seibel, the U.S. Attorney's Office and defense attorney Michael Sussman with an interim report on Thomas after 30 days on his medical and psychological condition,the diagnosis of the facility's examinerand a prognosis.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in White Plains didn't challenge the results of the psychiatric evaluation ofThomas andagreed to Seibel's order with defense attorney Michael Sussman.

Seibel accepted Dr. Kim Schlessinger's determination that at the time of the examination Thomas "is presently sufferingfrom mental diseaseor defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extentthat he is unable to assist properly in his own defense."

The examination took place at the Metropolitan Corrections Center in Manhattan.The Bureau of Prisons will choose themedical facility where Thomas will be held.

Thomas has pleaded not guilty to a 10-count federal indictmentaccusing him of injuring five people while trying to kill them because of their religion and obstructing the free exercise of religion in an attempt to kill them.

Thomas'family and attorney has said he suffers from mental illness and is not anti-Semitic. He's been examined by several psychologists with an additional examination planned. Thomas, who's being held on $5 million bail in the Westchester County jail in Valhalla, allegedly stopped taking Latuda, an antipsychotic medication,in October 2019, Sussman has said.

Rockland District Attorney Thomas Walsh and his aides were reviewing Seibel's order.

Thomas has pleadednot guilty to the 14 count indictmentin Rockland.The charges include six attempted murder charges and other felony counts. Judge Kevin Russo has yet to decideon his competency to stand trial as the District Attorney's Office planned to bringa second-degree murder charge before a grand jury.

Sussmanhas a motionpending in Rockland County Court to exhume Neumann's body.

Sussman askedSeibel to approved a $6,000 budget for a forensic pathologist to review and report on medical records connected to Neumann. If Neumann's body undergoes an autopsy, Sussman said he expects the forensic pathologist, Mark Taft, who is the former Rockland chief medical examiner, to sit in during the examination.

For Orthodox Jewish religious reasons, Neumann's family didn't want an autopsy conducted, a decision adhered to by the Rockland District Attorney's Office.

Thomas, who livedin Greenwood Lake, was arrested in Manhattan within hours of the attack by two NYPD officers who had been alerted to be on the lookout for a Nissan Sentra. Partygoer Josef Gluck had noted the license plate of the attacker's car and alerted Ramapo police, who put out a bulletin.

When Thomas was stopped, New York City police said he was covered in blood and the machete was found in his car. A knife also was found.

Prosecutors say bleach found in his car was evidenceThomaswas trying to clean the blood off after the attack. However, Thomas routinely used bleach to wash himself and his clothing, Sussman said.

MONSEY ATTACK: Grafton Thomas accused of having anti-Semitic journal

STABBING:Community shaken by bloodshed for 2nd time in a month

Based on a court warrant approved after the December attack,the FBI searched Thomas' home and his cellular telephone, finding references to Jews, Hitler, the Nazi culture, as well as packaging for an 18-inch machete, according to the complaint signed by FBI Special Agent Julie Brown.

Josef Neumann died months after being stabbed during a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey on Dec. 28, 2019.(Photo: Photo courtesy of the Neumann family)

The hand-written journal also referenced the Black Hebrew Israelites the extremist grouplinked to one of the shooters in the fatal attack on a kosher grocery store earlier this month inJersey City, New Jersey.

His cellphone's internet browser included November and December searches for topics such as "Why did Hitler hate the Jews," "German Jewish Temples near me," "Zionist Temples in Elizabeth, NJ," "Zionist Temples of Staten Island," and "Prominent companies founded by Jews in America,"according to the complaint.

Why he chose the rabbi's home remains under investigation.

Thomas remains a suspect in the predawn attack andstabbing of a rabbi walking to synagogue on Howard Drive in Monsey on Nov. 20. Ramapo Police Chief Brad Weidel has said so far there was no evidence to chargeThomasin the November stabbing, but the police and FBI were investigating.

Twitter: @lohudlegal

Steve Lieberman coversgovernment, breaking news, courts, police and investigations.Reach him at Twitter: @lohudlegal.Read more articlesandbio.Our local coverage is only possible with support from our readers.Sign up today for a digital subscription.

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Monsey machete attack: Grafton Thomas found unfit for trial on attempted murder, hate charges - Lohud

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