Cornell student charged for alleged antisemitic threats against school's Jewish community

ByMichelle Watson and Dakin Andone, CNN, CNNWire
Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Student charged after threats against Cornell's Jewish community
A Cornell University student has been arrested and charged for his alleged threats against the school's Jewish community.

NEW YORK -- A 21-year-old student has been arrested and charged for allegedly posting a series of antisemitic online threats against Cornell University's Jewish community, according to officials.

Patrick Dai, a junior at Cornell who is originally from Pittsford, New York, was arrested on Tuesday on federal criminal complaint charging him with posting threats to "kill or injure another using interstate communications."

The complaint alleges that Dai posted threatening messages to the Cornell section of an online discussion site, which included posts calling for the deaths of Jewish people and a post that said "gonna shoot up 104 west."

The online messages came to light on Sunday.

In a statement made earlier on Tuesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said that the state "would do everything possible to find the perpetrator who threatened a mass shooting and antisemitic violence on campus."

The charge filed against Dai carries a maximum term of 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years.

The threats emerged amid a reported spike in antisemitic incidents as a war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas rages in the Middle East: The Anti-Defamation League has said antisemitic incidents in the US increased nearly 400% in the days after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, and FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a Senate hearing Tuesday that antisemitism was reaching "historic levels" in the United States.

Rising tensions have been particularly pronounced on college campuses. Students at many universities have engaged in protests while some administrators - like those at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania - grapple with acknowledging students' wide-ranging concerns while fielding backlash from influential donors, demanding the schools take a clearer stance on the conflict.

There are about 3,000 undergraduate and 500 graduate Jewish students at Cornell, and they comprise about 22% of the student body, according to the school's Hillel organization, which had warned students and staff Sunday evening to avoid 104 West "out of an abundance of caution."

The threats spread fear and distress throughout Cornell's Jewish community, according to senior Zoe Bernstein, the president of Cornellians for Israel, a campus organization that aims to provide community and educational events for students who have a connection to Israel.

"This is totally unprecedented in my life and the lives of, I would say, pretty much all of my peers," said Bernstein. "It's really, deeply troubling and upsetting."

In a statement late Tuesday, Joel Malina, Vice President for University Relations at Cornell University, said that campus police will maintain its heightened security presence on campus.

"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. "We know that our campus community will continue to support one another in the days ahead. Cornell Police will maintain its heightened security presence on campus as the university continues to focus on supporting the needs of our students, faculty and staff."

Dai is expected to make his initial appearance Wednesday in federal court in Syracuse, New York.

CNN's Elizabeth Wolfe and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.

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