Woman accused of attacking 3 Jewish people in Brooklyn charged with federal hate crimes

"We will move aggressively when we see this kind of activity," Attorney General William Barr said of his office's decision to prosecute the woman.
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U.S. Attorney General William Barr delivers remarks at the Department of Justice Headquarters on Jan. 22, 2020 in Washington.Michael A. McCoy / AP

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By Ben Kesslen and Daniel Barnes

A New York City woman accused of slapping three Orthodox Jewish women on the street in December will be charged with federal hate crimes, Attorney General William Barr announced in a press conference Tuesday.

Speaking to a group of Jewish community leaders in Brooklyn, AG Barr said his office filed three charges against Tiffany Harris, who confessed to police she targeted the women in late 2019 because they were Jewish.

“These are the kinds of cases that maybe in the past would have been treated locally but I think it’s important for the federal government to plant its flag and show zero tolerance,” Barr said. “And this will not be an isolated case. We will move aggressively when we see this kind of activity.”

Harris was arrested after slapping three Jewish women who were walking down the street in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, which has a large Orthodox population. The women were wearing clothes that made them "identifiable as Jewish," according to the criminal complaint. Harris told police she remembered slapping the women and saying “Fuck you Jews."

Her case drew attention in New York City when she was released without bail and arrested a short time later for a different assault. The day after Harris slapped the three women, a man wielding a large knife injured at least five people at a Hasidic rabbi's home in Monsey, New York during a Hanukkah party. The man accused of the stabbings is also facing federal hate crime charges.

At the Tuesday meeting, Barr discussed the recent uptick in anti-Semitic violence in New York and beyond.

“I’m extremely distressed by the upsurge in violence — hate crimes — committed against the Jewish community,” Barr said, noting the entire country is seeing a “marked increase of this violence."

Barr said he wants U.S. Attorneys offices across the country to "invigorate" their relationships with their local Jewish communities and said his office wants to make it easier for people to report hate crimes.