Suspect in Hanukkah machete attack at rabbi's NY home not fit for trial, judge rules

A federal judge ordered that suspect Grafton Thomas be hospitalized to see if he can be restored to competency.
Image: Thomas Grafton
Suspect in Hanukkah celebration stabbings Thomas Grafton, 37, leaves the Ramapo Town Hall in Airmont, New York after being arrested on Dec. 29, 2019.Kena Betancur / AFP - Getty Images file

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By Phil Helsel

The man accused of stabbing five people during a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi's home in Monsey, New York, in December, has been found incompetent to stand trial.

Grafton Thomas, 37, "is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to assist properly in his defense," according to federal court documents dated Sunday.

The judge ordered that Thomas be hospitalized to see if he can be treated and restored to competency.

Thomas is charged with both federal hate crime charges and state counts in the deadly attack. The judge's order on competency and hospitalization applies to the federal counts.

Thomas is accused of barging into the rabbi's home as a group was observing the seventh night of Hanukkah, armed with a machete and attacking people there.

One of the victims, Josef Neumann, 72, died in March from injuries he suffered in the Dec. 28 attack, Rockland County District Attorney Thomas E. Walsh II said in a statement. At the time, Walsh said his office would seek an indictment for second-degree murder.

The Rockland County District Attorney's Office said it is reviewing the federal judge's ruling and its effect on the case, NBC New York reported.

Investigators found handwritten journals in Thomas' home that contained anti-Semitic writings, including writings about "Nazi culture" and Adolf Hitler and a drawing of a swastika, a federal criminal complaint said.

Michael H. Sussman, Thomas' attorney, has said that his client could be described as mentally ill, was hospitalized multiple times in 2019 and was on a variety of medications.

Sussman has also said that Thomas is not anti-Semitic, but mentally ill and in need of treatment, NBC New York reported.

Thomas' family said in a statement that he had "a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations."