UNITED STATES NEWS

Suspect in custody for posting online threats about Jewish students at Cornell University

Oct 31, 2023, 12:08 PM | Updated: 6:46 pm

ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) — A Cornell University student was arrested Tuesday and accused of posting threatening statements online about Jewish students at the school, law enforcement officials said.

Patrick Dai, 21, a junior from Pittsford, New York, is charged in a federal criminal complaint with posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications, according to a joint announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s office, FBI, New York State police and Cornell University Police.

It was not immediately clear if Dai had hired an attorney. The federal courts website had not yet been updated with the case. Dai did not respond to a Facebook message and his Cornell email address could not be immediately accessed.

The charge carries a possible five-year prison sentence, officials said.

The menacing messages, posted over the weekend on a forum about fraternities and sororities, alarmed students at the Ivy League school in upstate New York. The anonymous threats came amid a spike of antisemitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric appearing on social media during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Dai is scheduled to appear Wednesday in federal court in Syracuse, New York, before a United States Magistrate Judge.

Joel M. Malina, vice president for university relations at Cornell University, said the school was grateful for the quick work of the FBI.

“We remain shocked by and condemn these horrific, antisemitic threats and believe they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Malina said in a statement. “We know that our campus community will continue to support one another in the days ahead.”

The comments this weekend were left on a Greek life website that is not affiliated with the school in Ithaca, New York, about 227 miles (365 kilometers) northwest of New York City.

Dai’s threatening messages included posts calling for the deaths of Jewish people and a post that threatened to “shoot up 104 west,” a Cornell University dining hall that caters predominantly to kosher diets and is located next to the Cornell Jewish Center, according to the complaint.

The messages threatened to “stab” and “slit the throat” of any Jewish males he sees on campus, to rape and throw off a cliff any Jewish females, and to behead any Jewish babies, according to the complaint. In that same post, Dai threatened to “bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig jews,” authorities said.

The Cornell University Police Department reacted by increasing patrols and arranging additional security for Jewish students and organizations. A state police cruiser was parked in the street in front of the Center for Jewish Living on Monday.

The threats also prompted a campus visit by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

“Public safety is my top priority and I’m committed to combatting hate and bias wherever it rears its ugly head.” Hochul said in a statement before the arrests Tuesday.

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Suspect in custody for posting online threats about Jewish students at Cornell University