The man accused of attacking a rabbi outside a Jewish day school in Brighton was motivated by antisemitism and acted alone, Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Thursday as prosecutors filed hate crime and civil rights charges in the brazen daytime attack.
Khaled A. Awad, 24, an Egyptian national, allegedly stabbed Rabbi Shlomo Noginski repeatedly on July 1. Noginski survived the attack and has been released from the hospital.
At a hearing in Brighton Municipal Court, prosecutors said the evidence against Awad supported the new civil rights charges.
“It was learned through [Boston police] investigation that the suspect had strong religious views and opinions against Jews, Christians, and the American culture, which were preconceived notions he arrived with from the Middle East,’' Assistant District Attorney Margaret Hegarty said.
Awad, who lived in Brighton, had told a witness, “All Jews are stingy and evil,” Hegarty said. He also said “You don’t know the light” and “All you Christians are going to die,” she added. Hegarty did not identify Awad’s religious affiliation.
Outside the courthouse, Rollins said police were told by people who knew or had interacted with Awad that he held prejudicial views toward multiple races and would become very angry if his views were challenged.
“The witnesses also noticed that the suspect would stereotype various differences in racial groups and behavior, which included whites and Blacks, and that he was especially harsh on Jews,’’ Hegarty said.
Hegarty said Awad was seen “acting suspiciously” near the Shaloh House one day before he attacked Noginski as he stepped out of the school’s front door. She said Awad had to walk past a statue of a menorah before reaching Noginski, who wearing a yarmulke, suggesting that he was specifically targeting someone Jewish.
Awad arched his head back slightly and looked at the ceiling as Hegarty described the brutal attack.
Rollins filed the civil rights charges as Awad underwent a competency evaluation by a court clinician.
The clinician told Judge Steven M. Key that Awad has been diagnosed as bipolar, has not been taking any psychiatric medication while in Massachusetts, and was deemed incompetent to stand trial in Florida, where he faced criminal charges last year. He also received mental health treatment in Egypt, the clinician said.
Key ordered Awad to undergo a criminal responsibility examination at Bridgewater State Hospital for the next 20 days.
Awad’s court-appointed defense lawyer, Stephen J. Weymouth, requested the evaluation. He later told reporters that he had expected Awad would be charged with a bias-based crime when he learned about the attack. He said he did not believe the information that prosecutors provided him supports such charges.
“It looked like some sort of crime of opportunity. There was a van, there was access to keys,” Weymouth said. “I do not see anything that indicates to me that this was based on hate. I thought that the report that was submitted today in connection with the two cases [was] awfully awfully slim.”
Awad adamantly denies having “concerns” about Jews, Christians, or Blacks, he said.
“There’s an explanation [for Awad’s actions],” he said. “It’s not a good one, but it doesn’t involve hate.”
But Rollins said an investigation by the FBI, Boston police, and state agencies found sufficient evidence to charge Awad with hate crimes and civil rights violations.
“We are standing here today because we want the Jewish community to know that we believe this was rooted in antisemitism, we are going to call that out and charge that specifically,” she said.
“[The rabbi] was wearing a yarmulke, standing in front of a school that teaches about the Jewish faith and religion, standing in front of an enormous menorah and a bus for the Hebrew camp,” she said. “We just wanted to make sure we knew a little bit more about the suspect, and that we can prove these additional two charges, which we’re very confident we can.”
While Awad’s mental health issues are a concern, “that does not in any way take away from the fact that a violent attack occurred,” Rollins said.
Awad has been charged with nine crimes, including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail. He is due back in court July 29.
Noginski, a father of 12, has been released from a Boston hospital and called his survival miraculous. “If people want to see a miracle, they should look at me,” he told reporters in Hebrew Sunday.
Jewish community leaders have denounced the attack as a hate crime, and the Anti-Defamation League said the new charges against Awad were warranted.
“We welcome today’s filing of hate crime charges in the vicious attack against Rabbi Noginski,” the group said in a statement. “They are a stark reminder that antisemitism continues to fuel violence against the Jewish community.”
We welcome today's filing of hate crime charges in the vicious attack against Rabbi Noginski. They are a stark reminder that #antisemitism continues to fuel violence against the Jewish community. pic.twitter.com/xKbRo8jsZp— ADL New England (@ADL_NewEngland) July 8, 2021
According to court records, Awad has been living in a small brick apartment building a five-minute walk from Shaloh House.
A man who identified himself as Awad’s roommate told the Globe last week that he had rented a room in his apartment to Awad about four months ago.
He described Awad as a quiet, “normal guy” and said he never noticed anything unusual about him. He said he was not aware of Awad’s mental health issues.
John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Andrew Brinker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewnbrinker.