December 2, 2023

Person of interest being questioned after antisemitic threats made at Cornell University

Person of interest being questioned after antisemitic threats made at Cornell University


NEW YORK — A Cornell University junior was arrested Tuesday for allegedly making violent online threats directed toward Jewish students at the school.

Gov. Kathy Hochul says state police and the FBI’s joint terrorism task force questioned him earlier Tuesday.

Patrick Dai accused of posting antisemitic threats

The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York says 21-year-old Patrick Dai has been arrested for posting antisemitic threats, including, “If you see a Jewish ‘person’ on campus follow them home and slit their throats.”

The feds say Dai is from the Rochester area and faces charges of posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communitycations.

The complaint alleges he also posted he would shoot up 104 West, the university’s kosher dining hall, among other violent messages.

“My family, last night, we had a discussion whether it’s safe for me to be on campus or whether I should come back home,” freshman Davian Gekman said.

The university released the following statement:

“Cornell University is grateful to the FBI for working so swiftly to identify and apprehend the suspect in this case, a Cornell student, who remains in custody. We also thank Cornell Police and Chief Anthony Bellamy for extraordinary efforts in supporting the investigation and protecting our campus community. The university will continue to provide assistance to law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office as this case moves forward.

“We remain shocked by and condemn these horrific, antisemitic threats and believe they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. 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.”

State police now stand guard outside the Cornell Center for Jewish Living.

Leron Thumim, a Cornell graduate and the president of the Cornell Jewish Life Fund, says the governor promised to expedite safety upgrades.

“Just because it was one person doesn’t mean that’s the sole reason to be afraid,” he said.

One student from Westchester shared photos of “new intifada” scrawled on a campus sidewalk and “Zionism equals genocide.”

“It doesn’t feel like we’re living in 2023. It feels like we’re living in Nazi Germany,” one student said. “How can you think about your classes or anything? It seems so mundane when your life is literally being threatened.”

As for Dai, he is expected to make a first court appearance Wednesday in Syracuse. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Gov. Kathy Hochul unveils anti-hate initiatives

The arrest comes a day after the governor increased state police presence at campuses statewide and met with Jewish students at Cornell.

“You may think that you can be anonymous and post what you want, but there will be consequences,” Hochul said.

The governor is taking steps to protect people in at-risk communities and on college campuses throughout the state. But there is a special focus on City University of New York campuses.

“We cannot allow any New Yorker to live in fear, for the day we are willing to accept that is the day that our moral compass has broken and spun out of control,” Hochul said Tuesday during a speech at Columbia University.

Watch: Gov. Hochul addresses rise in hate speech on college campuses


Hochul wasted no time deploying state resources to identify threats of violence on college campuses after meeting with Cornell students.

“There is zero tolerance for hate in our state,” Hochul said.

The governor said she was especially concerned with continuing antisemitic issues on CUNY campuses. A CUNY law grad gave a fiery anti-Israel commencement speech last May and there have been recent pro-Palestinian protests.

Hochul named former state Court of Appeals chief judge Jonathan Lippman to review antisemitism and anti-discrimination policies at CUNY’s 25 campuses across the five boroughs.

“While his assessment will be focused on CUNY, his recommendations will be a roadmap for institutions across the state and the country,” Hochul said.

The governor, who recently visited a kibbutz near the Gaza border where 70 people were murdered by Hamas, also earmarked $700,000 to expand the work of the state police Social Media Analysis Unit with a focus on school violence, gang activity and illegal firearms. She also allocated $75 million in grants for law enforcement agencies to crack down on hate crimes.

The actions came amid a disturbing increase in hate crimes. The Anti-Defamation League said that there were 312 incidents between the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and Oct. 23, up from 64 during the same period the previous year.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations reported 110 bias incidents against Muslims for the same period. There were 63 in August.

“I’ve spoken to the SUNY and CUNY chancellors and representatives of private universities to share our concerns about the consequences of free speech crossing the line into hate speech,” Hochul said.

In a statement, Lippman said, “Antisemitism and discrimination in all its forms are unacceptable,” and that he would review CUNY policies to insure that all students are free from intimidation.

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