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Worcester man allegedly assaulted Muslim airline worker

A Delta Airlines plane. A Delta employee was allegedly assaulted at JFK Airport in New York.AP/File

A 57-year-old Worcester man has been arrested on hate crime charges for allegedly assaulting a Muslim airline employee at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown announced Thursday.

Robin Rhodes is accused of approaching a Delta employee who was wearing a hijab as she sat in her office in the airline’s sky lounge in terminal 2, Brown said in a statement.

It was not known if Rhodes had hired a lawyer, and he did not return a call seeking comment late Thursday night. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.


According to prosecutors, Delta employee Rabeeya Khan, who wears a hijab, was sitting in her office in the lounge when Rhodes, who had just arrived from Aruba and was awaiting a connecting flight to Massachusetts, approached the door and began harassing her.

Prosecutors said Rhodes asked Khan, “Are you [expletive] sleeping? Are you praying? What are you doing?” He then allegedly punched the door, which struck the back of Khan’s chair.

Khan asked Rhodes what she had done to provoke the outburst, and Rhodes continued his profane tirade, according to the statement.

He said to her, “You did nothing but I am going to kick your [expletive] ass,” the statement said.

Rhodes then allegedly kicked Khan in the leg and blocked her from leaving the office when she tried to escape, prosecutors said. She later ran out of the office when someone approached to calm Rhodes down.

But he allegedly followed her and got down on his knees in a mocking imitation of a Muslim at prayer, the statement said.

“[Expletive] Islam, [Expletive] ISIS, Trump is here now,” the release quoted Rhodes as saying. “He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You will see what happens.”


Khan, in addition to being frightened, suffered “substantial pain and redness” in her right leg, the statement said.

Rhodes, for his part, appeared to anticipate the charges he would face when police took him into custody.

“I guess I am going to jail for disorderly conduct,” he told officers, according to the statement. “I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman because their back was to me and they had something covering their head.”

The statement said Rhodes was awaiting arraignment Thursday on charges of third-degree assault as a hate crime, second-degree unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, third-degree menacing as a hate crime, first-degree harassment as a hate crime, third-degree assault, second-degree unlawful imprisonment, second-degree aggravated harassment, menacing and first-degree harassment.

Arraignment information was not immediately available late Thursday.

Brown condemned Rhodes’s alleged conduct in the statement.

“The bigotry and hatred that the defendant is accused of manifesting and acting upon have no place in a civilized society – especially in Queens County, the most culturally diverse county in the nation,” the district attorney said. “Crimes of hate will never be tolerated here and when they do, regrettably occur, those responsible will be brought to justice.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.