BOSTON – Khaled A. Awad, the 24-year-old suspect in the July 1 stabbing of a Brighton rabbi, remains in custody as Superior Court Judge Diane Freniere studies a flash drive full of evidence presented by prosecutors to see if he should remain in custody until his trial.
During a dangerousness hearing in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on Sept. 30, Assistant District Attorney Ursula Knight laid out a lengthy list of exhibits as Awad, an Egyptian national, faces numerous assault, assault and battery and hate crime charges.
The exhibits include police body-worn camera footage and surveillance video from the Brighton branch of the Boston Public Library, which captured the stabbing of the rabbi in a nearby park and an alleyway confrontation at gunpoint Awad had with police as he was arrested.
Awad’s attorney, Janice Bassil, said she would like bail for her client “as opposed to his being held” after listing some objections to the evidence presented by prosecutors.
No decision was made about whether Awad could be released as the judge took the matter under advisement and set a new court date of Nov. 3.
In laying out the evidence against Awad, Knight included statements from Awad’s former roommates, saying “that the defendant was antisemitic that he had a hatred of the Jewish people.”
Knight also offered testimony from Shaloh House Rabbi Shlomo Noginski that he saw hatred in the defendant during the attack on him, and that it “was a consequence of his being a rabbi, a Hasidic Jew.” Noginski was stabbed nine times in the attack before he was able to retreat into the Shaloh House. He was treated for his stab wounds at a nearby hospital and released.
Bassil objected to testimony that Awad has “strong religious views and opinions against Jews,” which investigators wrote after talking to witnesses who knew him.
She called such statements “multiple levels of hearsay.”
She said no antisemitic comments were reported to have been made by Awad during the attack. Prosecutors have said that Noginski’s style of dress identified him as a Hasidic Jew, and that at the time of the attack, he was standing in front of a Jewish school on Chestnut Hill Avenue where a large menorah was on display.
Bassil said after the attack, Awad’s former roommates came to the attention of the media and they were interviewed on TV. She said it seemed from those comments her client was “anti-everybody.”
She said one of his roommates, Aidan Anderson, obtained a restraining order against Awad after an altercation while the roommate was doing laundry while Awad was trying to study. Awad and his roommate were then students at the University of South Florida. The protective order was sought on Oct. 13, 2020 after an altercation two days before, according to documents obtained from Hillsborough County.
In an interview with the Journal, Anderson, 21, who is from Sarasota, Florida, and who is Jewish, doesn’t remember any statements word-for-word.
“But, bottom line, he had beliefs about groups of people, whether they are Jewish, Black, whatever, and he would make sweeping statements about them.” When asked if he recalled Awad making derogatory statements toward Jewish people, Anderson said he did.
The altercation Anderson had with Awad “had nothing to do with religion. It was just like one of his angry moods, or whatever, and I was trying to do my laundry and he got upset about it, so.”
Anderson said he would confront Awad if he made a statement against Jews, and up until their “household quibble,” he was OK talking it out with him, but then something changed and Awad would quickly become violent, “so you couldn’t argue with him anymore, you couldn’t talk to him anymore.” They were roommates for about a year.
Anderson said he was shocked when he learned what had happened.
“I would never expect him to go to an extreme like that,” Anderson said. While Anderson said he does not want to make judgments about Awad, he said he didn’t think it was a coincidence the victim was Jewish standing out in front of a synagogue.
Anderson said it could have been that Awad “just spiraled and like went on this psychotic attack or something. That seems plausible, but then, again he also had like this B.B. gun or whatever and a knife so it was a little bit premeditated, so, I don’t know,” he said.
The attack shocked the Jewish community, with calls for Awad to be charged with a hate crime.
Awad was initially arraigned and pleaded not guilty to several assault and assault and battery charges related to the attack in Brighton District Court. After further investigation and interviews with witnesses who knew Awad, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins filed two hate crime charges, for which Awad was arraigned and pleaded not guilty.
Judge Freniere said she wanted to take a step back from Bassil’s objections over civil rights and hate crime charges.
“This is a stranger violent assault, right?” she said, which to her was the key issue when it came to dangerousness.
Bassil, who has taught mental health law, has questioned Awad’s competency to stand trial. Awad had been ordered evaluated at Bridgewater State Hospital before a grand jury returned indictments against him, moving the case up from district to superior court.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Awad was found incompetent to stand trial in a theft case in Florida last fall. He was released to a treatment center there. He came to Massachusetts about four months before the attack.
“He found a room and was severely depressed,” Bassil said in an affidavit on July 29.
Bassil said it would be OK for Awad to appear before the court via Zoom at the Nov. 3 hearing.