Manhattan DA: On second thought, we'll present a hate-crime case to grand jury in anti-Semitic subway attack

Give the Manhattan District Attorney’s office credit for finally coming to the correct decision. Initially, Cyrus Vance’s office told attorneys representing Israeli student Lihi Aharon that her assault by a woman in the middle of a raging anti-Semitic tirade would not result in hate-crime charges. Following a great deal of outrage yesterday, they have reconsidered that decision, according to The Lawfare Project. Their executive director just sent out this announcement:

“We just received word that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is reversing course and will be presenting this matter as a hate crime to the grand jury,” Brooke Goldstein said in a statement. “We were heartened to see the Jewish community and our allies mobilize so quickly in support for Lihi and grateful the DA took notice of the overwhelming public response.” – Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of The Lawfare Project

If you’re new to this story, start with John’s post a few weeks ago, and then yesterday’s news from Aharon’s attorneys. Adam Kredo also reported on this yesterday for the Washington Free Beacon, and we both updated the story as it developed. (Update: Adam has the story updated now as well.) As a reminder of just how obvious the hate-crime predicate should have been, here’s the video of the attack again from Aharon herself:

Kenneth Belkin of Spodek Law Group had agreed to work on the case in partnership with The Lawfare Project, and he came on my show yesterday to discuss it. The interview starts around the 60-minute mark, and Ken eventually announces that he’d been told that the ADAs were reconsidering the decision not to press hate-crime charges:

Ignoring the clear anti-Semitic speech caught on tape in an indictment decision was strange enough. Even stranger was the initial refusal of the DA’s office to even present the opportunity to the grand jury. Regardless whether we think hate-crime legislation is a wise idea, it’s the law. Either it has to get applied equally to all offenders regardless of ethnicity or creed, or it shouldn’t get applied at all.

Thankfully, however, the District Attorney’s office has come to the same conclusion. That’s a good step in the right direction, and if they pursue the charges properly, it will send a strong message to anti-Semites of all strains at perhaps one of the most opportune moments in recent New York City history. Better to get this right than obstinately defend the indefensible.