Khaled A. Awad, shown here at a previous court hearing. File photo: AP Photo/Elise Amendola, Pool

Suspect in rabbi attack ordered held until trial

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Suspect in rabbi attack ordered held until trial

Khaled A. Awad, shown here at a previous court hearing. File photo: AP Photo/Elise Amendola, Pool

BOSTON – A judge has ordered 24-year-old Khaled A. Awad held without bail pending his trial in the bloody July 1 stabbing attack on Rabbi Shlomo Noginski.

Awad, who had been living in Brighton at the time of the incident, faces numerous charges in the attack in broad daylight of the Chabad rabbi in the vicinity of the Shaloh House Jewish Day School in Brighton Center on Chestnut Hill Avenue.

“The court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is dangerous as defined by” the state’s dangerousness statute, known as 58A, “and that there are no conditions of release that will reasonably assure the safety of another person or the community,” wrote Superior Court Judge Diane C. Freniere in her Oct. 4 ruling.

A month later, on Nov. 3, Superior Court Judge Mark A. Hallal set a pretrial conference date of Jan. 5 during Awad’s brief appearance in custody via Zoom in a Boston courtroom.

It was a date agreed to between Awad’s defense attorney, Janice Bassil, who has an interest in pursuing mental health defenses, and Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Ursula Knight.

Bassil said outside of the courtroom the case against the former college student and Egyptian national was in its early stages.

When asked how the defendant was doing, she said: “He’s pretty sick.”

In an earlier motion seeking money for an expert to evaluate Awad for his competency to stand trial, Bassil wrote Awad “has a history of mental illness and was found incompetent to stand trial in a theft charge” in Florida in late 2020.

After the incident in Brighton, Awad was initially sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for an evaluation, where, Bassil wrote, he was put on “antipsychotic medications.”

Bassil also has said in a court filing Awad “has no history of political or religious ideology that would bear on a claim of antisemitism,” a statement that has been contradicted by witnesses in interviews with police investigators. Jewish community leaders pushed for hate crimes charges after Awad was not charged with any when he was first arraigned in district court in Brighton. Awad was subsequently charged with two hate crimes and faces a total of nine charges after a Suffolk County Grand Jury returned indictments against him, moving the case to Superior Court.

While Judge Hallal set the next court date, it was Judge Freniere who ruled on Awad being too dangerous to release after Awad appeared before her in late September.

Factors Freniere weighed included the serious assault charges Awad faces, including an assault with the intent to murder charge, which carries up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The judge also cited what she said was credible evidence supporting the facts of the case, including surveillance video of the attack and the arrest.

On the early afternoon of July 1, the judge said Awad attacked the rabbi as he stood outside the Shaloh House Jewish Day School and synagogue, which was running a children’s summer camp at the time.

“This unprovoked and disturbing stabbing in the middle of the day started with the defendant initially brandishing what appeared to be a firearm (later determined to be an airsoft gun) to gain control over his victim to move him away from the school to a more isolated location,” Freniere wrote. As he did so, Awad pulled out a knife and twice chased down Noginski as he tried to flee, including running into moving traffic.

“During the encounter, the defendant repeatedly slashed at the victim with the knife causing serious physical and emotional injury to the victim,” the judge wrote.

With bystanders calling 911, police were there within minutes.

The rabbi, a married father of 12 and a native of the former Soviet Union who had lived in Israel for many years, was able to flee into the Shaloh House, where he was treated by police for his stab wounds before being taken by ambulance to nearby St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, where he was treated and later released.

Shortly after the attack, police caught up with Awad in a nearby alleyway and instructed him to stop, which he did not do. He ran, then turned and pointed the apparent gun at officers, who arrested Awad after he initially refused to comply with their orders to drop the weapon.

“The case is supported by surveillance video which the court has closely considered; it shows the physical attack of the victim and the police arrest encounter,” wrote the judge, who also noted that Awad was born in Saudi Arabia and has no family ties in Massachusetts. Freniere also considered police reports that documented two encounters Awad had with Florida law enforcement in November 2020.

“These reports show a fairly recent history of Awad’s unprovoked violent behavior towards other individuals (a roommate and a stranger) and are supportive of a finding that Awad is either unable or unwilling to comply with the rules of society,” the judge wrote.

The court also considered Awad’s mental health history, including the fact he was found incompetent to stand trial in the two Florida cases, which were later dismissed.

“The totality of the credible evidence presented convincingly shows a total disregard on the part of the defendant for the safety of the individual victim and the public,” the judge wrote.

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