Cornell University student accused of posting online threats about Jewish students appears in court


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — A Cornell University junior accused of posting violently threatening statements against Jewish people on campus was held without bail after his first appearance in federal court Wednesday.

Patrick Dai, from the Rochester, New York suburb of Pittsford, is charged with posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications. The graphic, anonymous messages posted this weekend on a Greek life forum rattled Jewish students on the Ithaca campus in upstate New York.

“While we take some measure of relief in knowing that the alleged author of the vile antisemitic posts that threatened our Jewish community is in custody, it was disturbing to learn that he was a Cornell student,” Cornell President Martha E. Pollack said in a message Wednesday to the university community.

Pollack said the Ivy League university will not tolerate antisemitism, racism, Islamophobia or any other form of hatred.

Attorney General Merrick Garland cited the arrest as an example of the Justice Department’s priorities when it comes to fighting hate crimes.

“The Justice Department has no tolerance for violence or unlawful threats of violence fueled by antisemitism or Islamophobia,” Garland said in an online forum on hate crimes Wednesday.

Investigators traced the threatening messages to Dai through an IP address, a numeric designation that identifies its location on the internet. Dai admitted that he posted the threatening messages in an interview with law enforcement authorities at the Cornell Police Department, according to the federal complaint made late Tuesday.

Dai, 21, waived his right to a bail hearing during his initial court appearance in Syracuse. He also was assigned a federal public defender, Gabrielle DiBella. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Nov. 15, according to federal officials.

Dai’s mother attended the court appearance and did not comment afterward, according to media reports.

The Associated Press left a phone message seeking comment from DiBella.

The threatening comments were left on a website about fraternities and sororities that is not affiliated with Cornell and prompted police to increase security for Jewish students.

One post included threats to stab and slit the throats of Jewish males and to bring a rifle to campus and shoot Jews. Another post was titled “gonna shoot up 104 west,” a university dining hall that caters to kosher diets and is located next to the Cornell Jewish Center, according to the complaint.

Dai has been suspended from Cornell, a spokesperson said.

Cornell also announced that Friday will be a “community day.” No classes will be held, and faculty and nonessential staff will be excused from work.

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