The suspect accused of killing a man and stabbed four others with a machete during a Hannukah celebration in Monsey, NY has been declared mentally unfit for trial, according to The Journal News.
On Monday, US District Court Judge Cathy Seibel ordered that the suspect be treated at a suitable mental health facility to determine if he “will attain the capacity to permit criminal proceedings to go forward against him.” The treatment may not exceed four months and the Federal Bureau of Prisons will provide a report on any updates to the court within the first 30 days, according to the court order.
The suspect has not been cleared of the charges against him and will be held to see whether he will be able to understand the charges and assist in his own defense within the foreseeable future, The Journal News reported. The US Attorney’s Office in White Plains did not challenge the psychiatric evaluation of the suspect and agreed to the court order.
Federal prosecutors on Monday had filed a total of 10 hate crime charges against the suspect, saying he kept journals containing references to Adolf Hitler and “Nazi Culture.” The suspect pleaded not guilty to the charges. Each count carries a maximum prison term of life.
Josef Neumann, 72, who was critically injured in the machete attack last December, succumbed to his wounds last month.
Federal prosecutors have said Thomas targeted his victims because of their Jewish faith. In a criminal complaint filed in December, they cited journals they seized from the suspect’s home containing references to Adolf Hitler, Nazi culture and the Black Hebrew Israelites movement, identified by extremism experts as an anti-Jewish hate group.
The suspect’s attorney claims that the attack was likely an expression psychosis rather than bigotry.
“I have stated from the very outset that, based upon my investigation, this was not an act of domestic terrorism,” said the suspect’s attorney to ABC News following the ruling on Monday. “While others were making that claim and inflaming the public, I stated that Mr. Thomas had a long well-documented history of mental illness and that, tragically, this motivated his conduct in late December.”
The court order on Monday only affects the federal charges against the suspect, not the separate state charges which include six counts of attempted murder, three counts of assault, three counts of attempted assault and two counts of burglary. Judge Kevin Russo has not yet decided on the suspect’s competency to stand trial for the state charges.
The suspect’s attorney has a motion pending in the Rockland County Court to exhume Neumann’s body, although Neumann’s family did not want an autopsy conducted for Orthodox Jewish religious reasons, according to The Journal News.