Marines: Hanukkah stab­bing sus­pect was kicked out of ba­sic

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - By Jim Mustian and Jen­nifer Peltz

NEW YORK — The man charged with stab­bing five peo­ple dur­ing a Hanukkah cel­e­bra­tion in New York be­gan boot camp to en­ter the U.S. Marine Corps but was sep­a­rated from the ser­vice a month later for “fraud­u­lent en­list­ment,” mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said Tues­day.

A Marine Corps spokeswoma­n would not pro­vide de­tails on why Grafton Thomas left the Marines as a re­cruit in late 2002, about a month af­ter he started train­ing.

“Those specifics are ad­min­is­tra­tive in nature and there­fore in­for­ma­tion we are re­quired to keep pri­vate,” Capt. Karo­line Foote told The Associated Press.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors filed hate crime charges against Thomas on Mon­day, ac­cus­ing the 37-year-old of us­ing a ma­chete to wound five peo­ple in­side the home of a rabbi in Mon­sey, New York, north of New York City.

A crim­i­nal com­plaint said at least one of the vic­tims was in crit­i­cal con­di­tion with a skull frac­ture. That man re­mained in se­ri­ous con­di­tion Tues­day, said for­mer New York state Assem­bly­man Dov Hikind.

Thomas is be­ing held with­out bail. He was charged with five fed­eral counts of ob­struct­ing the free ex­er­cise of re­li­gious be­liefs by at­tempt­ing to kill with a dan­ger­ous weapon. He also has pleaded not guilty to five state counts of at­tempted mur­der and one count of bur­glary.

Thomas’ de­fense at­tor­ney, Michael Suss­man, told re­porters about Thomas’ mil­i­tary ser­vice dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Mon­day in which he de­scribed his back­ground and years­long strug­gle with men­tal ill­ness. He pro­vided a hand­writ­ten re­sume in which Thomas in­di­cated he trained with the Marines at Par­ris Is­land, South Carolina.

Mil­i­tary law de­fines fraud­u­lent en­list­ment as a “know­ingly false rep­re­sen­ta­tion or de­lib­er­ate con­ceal­ment as to” a re­cruit’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions. That could in­volve a re­cruit fail­ing to dis­close cer­tain med­i­cal con­di­tions, past drug use or an ar­rest record, in­clud­ing cases that are sealed be­cause the re­cruit was a ju­ve­nile or for other rea­sons.

Thomas had mul­ti­ple run-ins with law en­force­ment be­fore he was taken into cus­tody over the week­end, in­clud­ing an ar­rest for as­sault­ing a po­lice horse, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion who was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly and spoke to the AP on con­di­tion of anonymity. De­tails re­lated to that case ap­pear to be un­der seal.

Suss­man wrote in an email that Thomas “was re­cruited and suf­fered a wrist in­jury dur­ing ba­sic train­ing” with the Marines.

“He was then re­leased from that train­ing,” Suss­man said. “That is the best in­for­ma­tion we have at this time.”

Thomas’ fam­ily has said his men­tal health de­te­ri­o­rated over the years and that he has been hos­pi­tal­ized on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions.

When he was still in high school, Thomas was ar­rested in Brook­lyn af­ter po­lice found him with a gun, re­called Joseph Bur­den, then his coach on a neigh­bor­hood foot­ball team. The case ul­ti­mately was closed with­out pun­ish­ment, Bur­den added. Suss­man said the case was dis­missed.

At the time, “he was a joy-lov­ing, fun-lov­ing kid,” a typ­i­cal ado­les­cent boy who didn’t seem trou­bled, Bur­den re­called.

“We had a lot of in­ter­ac­tion with each other, and it was all good,” Bur­den said. “Noth­ing like the trou­ble he has now.”

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