Manhattan DA moves to dismiss hate crime charges in attack on Israeli student

Prosecutors say the suspect, who was charged for assaulting Columbia student with a stick, has accepted deal for case to be dismissed

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Protesters outside Columbia University, New York City, New York, April 30, 2024. (Luke Tress/JTA)
Protesters outside Columbia University, New York City, New York, April 30, 2024. (Luke Tress/JTA)

New York Jewish Week via JTA – Prosecutors are moving to dismiss hate crimes charges against a woman charged with attacking an Israeli student on Columbia University’s campus in the aftermath of Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught on Israel.

The suspect, Maxwell Friedman, who also goes by Malaika, was charged with four counts of assault and other offenses for allegedly striking the Israeli student with a stick on October 11 during a dispute over Israeli hostage posters.

On Monday, the Manhattan district attorney’s office told the New York Jewish Week that Friedman accepted an offer to dismiss the case. As part of the agreement, Friedman has completed three sessions with Manhattan Justice Opportunities, a social services group that provides counseling and other services in place of incarceration for certain crimes. She also made a public apology during a court appearance.

If she is not arrested again within the next six months, the case will be dismissed, according to the legal agreement, known as an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. The agreement, which Friedman accepted last month, includes an order of protection for the victim.

The district attorney’s office said Friedman’s age — 19 at the time — lack of criminal history and willingness to learn through the social services classes factored into the decision. At the time of the incident, the victim was 24.

The incident took place outside Columbia’s Butler Library. The Israeli man who was hit with the stick told the district attorney’s office in October that he and others had printed fliers with information about the number of deaths in Israel, along with a photograph of a kidnapped Israeli family, and posted the fliers on designated news bulletins on campus.

Illustrative: A person holds up a poster of hostage Naama Levy during a rally for the release of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the UN Headquarters on January 12, 2024 in New York City (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/AFP)

The victim said he saw Friedman take down and rip up several fliers. He said Friedman told him and others, “F— you. F— all of you prick crackers.”

She also said, “I disrespected you. What are you going to do about it?” according to a complaint filed with the district attorney’s office.

Friedman then shoved the victim and struck him in the hands with a dowel, slicing and fracturing his finger, the initial complaint said.

The district attorney’s office said Monday, however, that the court determined Friedman had not intentionally hit the student with a stick. According to video and witnesses, the court found that Friedman was waving the stick at the victim, when he reached out and was hit. It was later determined that the finger was sprained, not broken, the district attorney’s office said.

A friend of the alleged victim, who is also Israeli, told the campus newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, that Friedman approached the pro-Israel students while they were putting up the fliers and asked to join them, saying she was Jewish. She remained with the group that morning, but later in the day, the Israelis noticed her with a bandana over her face tearing down the posters.

When the pro-Israel group confronted her, she shouted at them and hit the man with the stick, one of the Israeli students told the Spectator.

Friedman was charged with one count each of assault in the second degree as a hate crime; assault in the third degree as a hate crime; aggravated harassment in the second degree; and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. She pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The incident was one of the earliest high-profile instances of hate crimes related to the Israel-Hamas war in New York City. Campuses across the United States were already in turmoil at the time after some students backed the attack on Israel or blamed Israel for the bloodshed.

In the eight months since, hate crimes against Jews in New York City have surged. Several other incidents that occurred in the aftermath of October 7 are being pursued by prosecutors, including one in which a suspect allegedly punched a Jewish Israeli near Times Square while shouting antisemitic epithets.

The Times of Israel Staff contributed reporting.

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