Imagine the bravery and courage it would take to sit at another hearing for the attackers who, without provocation, knocked you to the ground; pummeled you with a metal crutch, signs, and fists; kicked you in the ribs, stomach, and throughout your entire body; and then burned your face with mace and pepper spray. On Thursday, March 9th, Joseph Borgen, did just that at a hearing for his case amidst many Jewish advocates. Joey, a young man wearing a yarmulke, had been walking to a pro-Israel rally on May 20, 2021, when he was brutally and mercilessly assaulted. Joey required surgery following a concussion and severe injuries.
Despite a confusing and false notice regarding a cancellation of the 9:30 a.m. hearing sent out by a “Jewish social media influencer,” the case was brought up as scheduled. A great disservice was done to the Jewish community by fake message preventing an untold number of Borgen followers from showing up at the courthouse.
What was true that the hearings for attackers Faisal Alezzi and Waseem Awawdeh, who wielded the metal crutch as he called his victim a “dirty Jew” and threatened, “Explicative Israel. Hamas is going to kill all of you,” were rescheduled for April. Awawdeh was released on $10,000 bail and offered a shocking six-month plea deal by Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg. We have yet to learn the reason for the light plea deal. It might stem from cooperation with the prosecution to identify all the attackers. Regardless, we need to hold D.A. Bragg accountable and insist that he prosecute assaults and hate crimes against Jewish victims with the same vigor and seriousness that he applies to victims of other races or denominations. We are entitled to equal protection under the law.
Two defendants Mahmoud Musa and Mohammed Said Othman appeared in court on Thursday. The Assistant District Attorney (ADA) recommended a five-year sentence (which is below the most lenient six-year sentence for such a crime) with five years of custodial probation supervision for Musa. The charges are for gang assault in the first degree and assault in the second degree as a hate crime. The judge addressed a motion for agreement from all the defendants’ attorneys that the cases be “consolidated” for the sake of “judicial economy.” All five defendants are charged with the same alleged “offenses” based on a “common scheme or plan” and the “offenses are based on the same criminal transaction:” gang assault and commission of a hate crime. The judge said that all the evidence being cited is the same: the video, records, and witness testimony. Musa’s attorney agreed. The next hearing for all the defendants is set for April 20 when the Court will decide on consolidation of the cases.
Othman’s case offered comic relief, if only for a moment. The ADA wanted to know which Mohammed Othman was appearing in court. His attorney, the third one assigned to his case, was unsure until his client produced his license. Once the somewhat humorous confusion was cleared as to which brother was before the court, the proceedings continued. The ADA is requested three years for gang assault in the third degree and one and a half years for committing assault as a hate crime; both would be served concurrently. The brother’s case was heard thereafter. A sixth attacker remains at large.
Call D.A. Bragg at 212-335-9000 and tell him: “It is urgent that antisemitic assaults and hate crimes be prosecuted to the full extent of the law to send a clear message to those who intend to perpetrate vicious, horrific, and murderous attacks against Jewish people.”
Call Governor Kathy Hochul with the same message at 518-474-8390 or FAX: 518-474-1513. (When you call, you will hear two COVID messages first. Stay on the line and press 3 for more options. There will be an opportunity to press 1 to leave a message, and 2 to speak directly with an agent.) Send a message to Governor Hochul online at: governor.ny.gov/content/governor-contact-form or portal.311.nyc.gov.
By Lynne Bursky-Tammam
and Judy Freedman Kadish