Cornell student in court over threats to kill Jews

Cornell University student Patrick Dai, who was charged by federal prosecutors for allegedly making online threats against Jewish students at the Ivy League school, appears in a police booking photo in Binghamton, New York, U.S. October 31, 2023.
Patrick Dai (police booking photo)

A student at an elite New York college has been held in jail after appearing in court accused of posting violent threats against Jewish students.

Prosecutors say Patrick Dai, 21, made threats to bring a gun to the Cornell University campus and rape Jewish women and "behead any Jewish babies".

The engineering student appeared in court in an orange jump suit.

He has been charged with posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications.

The crime is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Mr Dai's mother was in the court in Syracuse, New York state, on Wednesday afternoon.

She leaned forward in an apparent attempt to make eye contact with her son, according to local media.

Prosecutor Geoffrey Brown asked that Mr Dai be remanded in custody, noting that he had visited a campus dining hall before allegedly posting threats to "shoot up" the area.

Mr Dai waived his right to a bail hearing.

The Cornell Daily Sun, the college newspaper, first reported on a series of antisemitic comments left on the website Greekrank.

The platform, which is not affiliated with the university but is used by many of its students, covers fraternity and sorority life on several campuses.

One post from the commenter named "hamas" was titled "if i see another jew".

Mr Dai's parents told the New York Post that their son suffers from "severe depression".

"He cannot control his emotion well due to the depression," Mr Dai's father, who asked not to be named, told the newspaper in a text message.

"No, I don't think he committed the crime. He told us he lost his life goal and motivation. As parents, we tried to give him more love."

Mr Dai's father said he and his wife lost communication with their son in the days before his arrest.

They had attempted to contact him, he said, worried he might commit suicide.

In a statement, Cornell University said: "We remain shocked by and condemn these horrific, antisemitic threats and believe they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

The university said that police will maintain a heightened security presence on campus in the coming days.

Molly Goldstein, co-president of the Cornell Center for Jewish Living, told CNN: "Jewish students on campus right now are unbelievably terrified for their lives."

The threats against Cornell's Jewish community came amid reports of rising antisemitic incidents around the country.

Speaking to a congressional committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers that antisemitic abuse was reaching "historic levels" in the US.

"Our statistics would indicate that for a group that represents only about 2.4% of the American public, they account for something like 60% of all religious-based hate crimes," Mr Wray said of Jewish Americans.

He noted that this figure had probably risen since the Israel-Gaza conflict erupted on 7 October.