BRIGHTON – A dangerousness hearing for Khaled A. Awad, the suspect in the attack and stabbing of Rabbi Shlomo Noginski on July 1, was again postponed this past week as his attorney asked that he be examined at Bridgewater State Hospital for his competency to stand trial, according to court documents.
Awad was ordered to remain at Bridgewater until Aug. 26, when another hearing is scheduled.
“In support thereof,” Boston attorney Janice Bassil, an expert in mental health defenses, wrote, “counsel states that she met with the defendant on July 27, 2021 and he appeared to have difficulty communicating and understanding information.”
The motion states Awad would be better served by a private evaluation regarding criminal responsibility “that could take place over a period of time and with better information.”
The court document also states that Awad “was fully cooperative but presented as very sick. He did not appear to have the capacity to assist in his own defense.”
Judge David T. Donnelly agreed and allowed the motion to cease the criminal responsibility examination of Awad and instead have Bridgewater evaluate him for his competency to stand trial. The hearing took place on July 28, with Bassil introducing herself as the Awad’s new attorney.
The state reserved its right to argue for dangerousness, whether Awad could be released on bail and other conditions. Such a hearing was postponed on Thursday, July 29.
In a separate motion seeking money to hire a medical expert to evaluate Awad, attorney Bassil said Awad “has no history of political or religious ideology that would bear on a claim of antisemitism.”
Awad, a college student from Egypt, is facing nine charges in connection with the attack on the rabbi in broad daylight outside the Shaloh House on Chestnut Hill Avenue around 1 p.m. on July 1. Noginski, who grew up in the former Soviet Union and later in Israel, suffered eight stab wounds in the attack. Police say Awad approached Noginski outside of Shaloh House’s summer camp and pointed a gun at the rabbi, and demanded that he get in the camp’s van. The rabbi then fled across the street to a park, where he was stabbed repeatedly and then chased through Brighton Square before Awad was surrounded by police. Police say Awad pointed a gun at police just before he was arrested.
Awad was initially arraigned on July 2 on charges of assault to murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a gun and a knife on school grounds and attempt to commit a robbery. One of the assault and battery charges relates to the suspect allegedly kicking a Boston police officer in the stomach while being taken into custody.
On July 8, Awad was arraigned on two further hate crimes charges, a civil rights violation with injury, and assault and battery to intimidate causing bodily injury while armed. He again pleaded not guilty. A dangerousness hearing that was supposed to be held that day but the judge ordered Awad sent to Bridgewater for the criminal responsibility evaluation.
On July 28, Judge Donnelly allowed a motion for up to $2,500 to hire Dr. Jeffrey Kerner, a forensic psychiatry specialist affiliated with Mass. General Hospital, to evaluate Awad given he was described as an “indigent student” in court documents.
Awad’s mother, who lives in Egypt, is paying for his attorney, and Bassil said she lowered her fee given her circumstances. “She is raising three younger children and is the sole provider for her family in Egypt.” Awad’s father has died.
“The defendant does not live with his family and has been detained on a finding of dangerousness,” the motion adds.
In asking for money for experts, court documents state: “The Commonwealth alleges that the defendant attacked this person based on his hatred of Jews.”
However, the motion states that Awad “has a history of mental illness and was found incompetent to stand trial in Florida concerning a theft charge in December 2020.”
Awad “was psychotic with a diagnosis ranging from schizoaffective disorder to schizophrenia. Before this incident, he had no prior criminal history,” the court document states.
In arguing for a medical expert, the motion states Awad is “very ill and has been given antipsychotic medications. It is not clear that he is competent to stand trial. It also appears that he may not be criminally responsible for these charges.”
Bassil also submitted an affidavit in support of the request for funds.
In meeting with Awad, she said it appeared Awad was heavily medicated, would pause before answering questions and at other times he could not answer them.
“He wrote down some answers with words like ‘lost’ and ‘afraid.’ He rocked back and forth in his chair. He could not sustain eye contact.”
Bassil wrote she had spoken with Awad’s mother and sister and found that sometime in 2020 he stopped speaking with his family, which worried them, because “this was not his usual behavior and he had remained close to all family during his studies abroad.” They had called police for a welfare check but no one answered where he had been living. “Eventually the family learned he had been arrested for theft.” A court in Florida sent Awad to a psychiatric facility “where he was deemed incompetent,” the affidavit states.
Bassil alleged that Awad had been a good student and had not been in trouble with police. Through advice of a friend of a friend of the family, Awad moved to Boston. “He found a room and was severely depressed.”
Bassil said in her affidavit she has represented others “charged with serious crimes, including murder who suffered from mental illness.”
The judge also allowed $2,000 for the defense to hire private investigator Timothy Cramer to interview witnesses.
The attorney stated that the contrast of Awad’s behavior before the onset of mental illness and after was critical to the case. “Further, it will be important to locate witnesses who can testify to the defendant’s lack of political and religious fervor that might defeat the claim that the crime was motivated by antisemitism.”
That contention appears to be at odds with a supplemental Boston Police report supporting the civil rights violation charges in which detectives spoke with several witnesses.
“It was learned through this investigation that the suspect had strong religious views and opinions against Jews, Christians, and the American culture which were preconceived notions since he arrived from the middle east [sic]. The suspect used derogatory and degrading language, which was offensive to them such as “All Jew are Stingy and Evil.”
Awad allegedly had angry outbursts when his point of view was challenged, the report states.
Police also learned that the day before the incident, Awad was seen close to Shaloh House acting in a suspicious manner, causing someone to take a photo of him.