Suspect in Hanukkah machete attack pleads not guilty to federal hate crime charges

Grafton Thomas
Photo credit AP Photo/Julius Constantine Motal
By 1010 WINS

MONSEY, N.Y. (1010 WINS) – The man accused of attacking people with a machete as they celebrated Hanukkah in Rockland County pleaded not guilty to federal hate crimes during a court appearance Monday.

Grafton Thomas was in White Plains federal court to answer to five counts of attempting to kill victims based on their religion and five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs by attempting to kill with a dangerous weapon.

He also said he was on Prozac and other medications at the time of the attack. 

Authorities believe the 37-year-old attacked five people with a machete at a rabbi’s home in Monsey on the night of Dec. 28 before fleeing the area. He was arrested a short time later in Manhattan.

Thomas also faces state charges of attempted murder and burglary in the case.

Thomas' defense attorney, Michael Sussman, said Thomas has a history of mental health problems.

Sussman described Thomas as a man with “tremendous mental derangement who never received the care and treatment he needed.”

Sussman said Thomas had been “mischaracterized” as an anti-Semite by elected leaders who do not yet know all the facts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.