Student charged with making antisemitic threats to Cornell's Jewish students
Since the attack on Israel, antisemitic incidents at colleges have increased.
A Cornell University student was charged with making threats against Jewish students on the campus, according to federal charges filed by the Justice Department on Tuesday.
Patrick Dai, a junior at Cornell, was charged by the DOJ with making explicit threats against Jewish men, women and babies, which allegedly included threats of rape and murder. According to the DOJ, Dai allegedly threatened to "bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot" Jews.
The charge filed against Dai carries a maximum term of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul had on Tuesday said a person was in custody in connection to antisemitic threats made against students at Cornell University.
"When I met with Cornell students yesterday, I promised them New York State would do everything possible to find the perpetrator who threatened a mass shooting and antisemitic violence on campus," Hochul said in a statement. "Earlier today, law enforcement identified a person of interest as part of the investigation and this individual is currently in custody of the New York State Police for questioning."
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday said the "Justice Department has no tolerance for violence, or unlawful threats of violence fueled by anti-Semitism or Islamophobia" in response to the threats at Cornell University.
The arrest of Dai shows how prosecutors "are focusing our efforts on confronting and disrupting illegal threats wherever they arise," Garland said.
"I want to reiterate a core principle of this Justice Department: No person, and no community in this country should have to live in fear of hate-fueled violence," Garland said.
The FBI said Monday it was investigating a potential antisemitic hate crime at the university, as President Joe Biden told ABC News he was "very concerned" about the rising antisemitism in the country.
Over the weekend, numerous threats to the Jewish community at Cornell were posted on a website "unaffiliated" with the university, Cornell University President Martha Pollack wrote in a letter to the community Sunday.
The online messages posted Sunday threatened violence to the school's Jewish community, and specifically named the location of the Center for Jewish Living, where the kosher dining hall is located, Pollack said in her letter. One of the posts threatened to shoot Jewish students on campus, another encouraged others to engage in violence aimed at Jewish students, according to Cornell's student newspaper, The Cornell Daily Sun.
Pollack said the FBI was investigating the incident as a "potential hate crime." The FBI said it's taking the threats seriously.
"The FBI is aware of the threats made to Cornell University's Jewish community," the FBI said in a statement to ABC News. "We take all threats seriously and are working closely with Cornell and our law enforcement partners at every level to determine the credibility, share information, and take appropriate investigative action.
The FBI is asking anyone who sees suspicious activity to immediately report it to law enforcement.
"Nothing is more important than the safety of our communities and we will not tolerate violence motivated by hate and extremism," the FBI said in its statement.
The incident at Cornell is part of a larger issue of antisemitism on college campuses, according to the White House, which has mobilized the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Education to combat hate speech on campuses. On Monday, Biden told ABC' Mary Bruce that he is "very concerned" about the rise in antisemitism.
During the Monday press briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president is thinking of the Cornell community and that the administration is doing everything it can to counter antisemitism, including making it easier for students facing discrimination to report it.
"President Biden has been clear, we can't stand by and stand silent in the face of hate," she said. "We must without equivocation, denounce antisemitism. We must also without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia."
On ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday, John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said that rising antisemitism on college campuses is a "deep concern" as the war between Israel and Hamas rages on in the Middle East.
Since the Oct. 7 terror attack in Israel, DOJ and DHS have shared public safety information with campus law enforcement. The DOJ has also expedited antisemitic complaints to the DOJ's Civil Rights division. The surprise attack by Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials. More than 8,000 people have since been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.
On Monday, Hochul visited Cornell University's Center for Jewish Life and hosted a news conference with Pollack. Hochul said no student should feel unsafe at Cornell and said threats like the ones targeting the university's Jewish community will not be tolerated.
"I came here in person with one strong message, that we will not tolerate threats or hatred, or antisemitism, or any kind of hatred that makes people feel vulnerable and exposes people and makes them feel insecure in a place that they should be enjoying their campus life without fear that someone could cause them harm," Hochul said.
Law enforcement is working to identify who is responsible for the posts, Hochul said.
"Identifying who made the threats, and holding them accountable because you want to let people know if you're going to engage in these harmful actions, hate crimes, breaking our laws, you will be caught and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," she said.
The Anti-Defamation League posted to X that it is "horrified and disgusted" by the antisemitic messages aimed at Cornell's Jewish students.
"We have been in touch with Cornell students and parents this evening who are traumatized and in fear for their safety," the Anti-Defamation League's New York and New Jersey chapter wrote. "We thank law enforcement for responding quickly and for President Pollack's strong statement of condemnation."
ABC News' Molly Nagle, Benjamin Siegel and Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.
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