Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Everyone who has called and mobilized others to call Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office and to contact New York Governor Kathy Hochul and other public officials about the cases involving Joseph Borgen’s attackers has made a difference. In May 2021, Borgen, a Jew, was severely beaten by five men while walking to pro-Israel rally in Manhattan.

In January of 2023, Waseem Awawdeh had been offered a six-month plea deal that drew an outcry from the Jewish community because of its leniency. When Awawdeh entered the courtroom on Tuesday, April 25, he did not have the same cocky, self-assured, arrogant air of bravado that he displayed in the past. He pled guilty to one count of assault in the second degree as a hate crime with a sentence of one year in prison, and pled guilty to one count of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree with a sentence of six months in prison. These sentences will run consecutively. Once he is sentenced on June 13, he will be a convicted felon and will have to spend 18 months on Rikers Island, not an insignificant amount of time.

Defendant Faisal Elezzi pled guilty to attempted assault in the third degree as a hate crime on Monday, April 24. We now await the beginning of the trials of Mahmoud Musa, Mohammed Said Othaman and Mohammed Othman. (At any time, we are told, each of them can choose to plead guilty.) It is expected that jury selection will begin on June 5 after the trial date is formally set on May 11. Assistant D.A. Jonathan Junig informed those who attended the hearing on April 25 that the most important time to fill the court is the day on which Joey Borgen will be called to testify, possibly June 7 or June 9. What Joey is being asked to do requires a lot of bravery. As he faces three of the attackers, he should see a room full of supporters.

Staying on top of these cases and being vigilant in making sure that the defendants are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law is the most effective deterrent to prevent future attacks against the Jewish community. Showing up in court and continued calls and emails to the D.A.’s office and public officials expressing your concern about and interest in these cases are critical.

Silence is not an option and doing nothing is not an option.

Lynne Bursky Tammam
Yom HaShoah Mobilization Committee
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