Two plead guilty to hate crime charges for 2021 attack on Jewish man in NYC

Joey Borgen, who was severely beaten while walking to pro-Israel rally during Gaza war, says sentences for his attackers should’ve been harsher

Joseph Borgen shows his injuries after being beat by a pro-Palestinian mob in the streets of New York (video screenshot)
Joseph Borgen shows his injuries after being beat by a pro-Palestinian mob in the streets of New York (video screenshot)

New York Jewish Week via JTA — Two men pled guilty this week for attacking Joey Borgen, a Jewish man who was severely beaten in 2021 while walking to a pro-Israel rally in Manhattan.

Waseem Awawdeh, one of five men who punched, kicked, pepper-sprayed and beat Borgen with crutches, pled guilty on Tuesday for attempted assault in the second degree as a hate crime and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree. The Manhattan district attorney’s office confirmed his plea to the New York Jewish Week. It was first reported by Jewish Insider.

The beating, which took place amid a spike in antisemitism surrounding Israel’s 2021 war with Hamas in Gaza, drew national attention. And the court battle that followed led to criticism from activists in the city’s Jewish community that District Attorney Alvin Bragg was being too lenient with Awawdeh. Earlier this month, Borgen’s father, Barry, was invited by the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee to testify at a hearing in New York City on Bragg and violent crime in Manhattan.

Awawdeh will serve a total of 18 months in jail, and will be sentenced on June 13, Bragg’s office said. That includes 12 months for the attempted assault charge, and six months for the criminal possession charge, to be served consecutively.

Another defendant, Faisal Elezzi, pled guilty to attempted assault in the third degree as a hate crime on Monday. He will be sentenced on June 8 to three years’ probation and is required to continue compliance with anti-bias programming. Both Awawdeh and Elezzi were required to make a public apology.

Awawdeh’s sentence is longer than a six-month plea deal Bragg had reportedly offered him months ago, which had spurred backlash from Borgen, his family and Jewish activist groups, which demanded a longer sentence.

But Borgen told the New York Jewish Week that he still is not “happy about” the sentences, which he believes should be harsher. He pointed to a report that Awawdeh had said he would “do it again.”

Illustrative: Pro-Palestinian protesters attack Jewish restaurant goers in Manhattan on May 20, 2021. (Screen capture/Twitter)

Borgen was wearing a kippah while heading to a pro-Israel rally, the same day Hamas and Israel announced a ceasefire after 11 days of conflict, when he was attacked on the street in Midtown on May 20, 2021 by five people, including Awawdeh and Elezzi. Awawdeh also yelled “dirty Jew” while beating Borgen, who was sent to the hospital and needed surgery on his wrist.

A two-year court battle ensued. The Manhattan DA’s said in a statement that “antisemitic hate has no place in Manhattan.”

“These defendants have now pled guilty to hate crime charges and apologized for their actions following a thorough investigation by the Office,” the statement said. “We will continue to seek accountability for the remaining defendants, who are all facing significant state prison time if convicted.”

The prosecution of Borgen’s case puts it in the minority of hate crimes complaints in Manhattan. According to NYPD statistics, police precincts in the borough received 241 hate crime complaints in 2022, and made 118 arrests based on those complaints.

Bragg’s office told the New York Jewish Week that 92 hate crimes were prosecuted in Manhattan last year. As of late March, his office had 20 currently open hate crime cases related to antisemitism from this year. A report last year in The City, a local publication, found that most hate crimes charges are dropped before any convictions take place.

The next court date for the remaining three defendants — Mohammed Othman, Mohammed Said Othman and Mahmoud Musa — is May 11.

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