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Cornell student arrested in connection with antisemitic threats on New York campus

A woman walks by a Cornell University sign on the Ivy League school's campus in Ithaca, New York, on Jan. 14, 2022. Cornell University administrators dispatched campus police to a Jewish center after threatening statements appeared on a discussion board Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.
Ted Shaffrey
/
AP
A woman walks by a Cornell University sign on the Ivy League school's campus in Ithaca, New York, on Jan. 14, 2022. Cornell University administrators dispatched campus police to a Jewish center after threatening statements appeared on a discussion board Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.

Two days after social media posts threatened a violent rampage against Jewish students at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, federal prosecutors have filed charges against a 21-year-old student.

Patrick Dai, a junior, allegedly posted threats "to kill or injure another using interstate communications," a felony.

He has yet to enter a plea and is expected to appear in federal court on Wednesday in Syracuse, New York. Officials say he remains in custody.

According to federal prosecutors, Dai allegedly posted comments on an online discussion site on Sunday, calling for the deaths of Jewish people and saying he was "gonna shoot up" a building frequented by Jewish students.

In a separate post, Dai allegedly threatened to stab male students, sexually assault female students and said he would "bring an assault rifle to campus and shoot all you pig jews," according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of New York.

Dai is innocent until proven guilty. If convicted, the U.S. Attorney's Office said he could face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

"We remain shocked by and condemn these horrific, anti-semitic threats and believe they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," said Joel Malina, a spokesman for Cornell University in a statement.

"Cornell Police will maintain its heightened security presence on campus," he added.

The threats posted Sunday sent waves of fear through the Jewish community in Ithaca. They prompted a visit to campus by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

In a speech Tuesday, Hochul warned of rising antisemitism on college campuses across New York state. She cited to the threats at Cornell but said bigotry against Jewish people has taken root on other campuses, including the City University of New York in New York City.

"The problem didn't begin in the weeks following October 7 attacks [by Hamas against Israel]," Hochul said. "It's been growing on a number of campuses and seen most acutely in the City University of new York."

She said retired state Judge Jonathan Lippman would lead a probe of CUNY policies and procedures relating to "antisemitism and discrimination."

In recent weeks, violence in Israel and Gaza has led to growing tension at universities across the U.S., with large pro-Palestinian protests on some campuses.

Hochul said during some of those protests "free speech crossed the line into hate speech."

While focusing much of her address on antisemitism, Hochul also condemned hate speech and bigotry against Muslim and Palestinian New Yorkers.

Officials say the case in Ithaca is still under investigation by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, the New York State Police, Cornell University Police and the Ithaca Police Department.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.