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Defendant pleads guilty to brazen antisemitic attack that drew outcry from NYC Jewish community

Waseem Awawdeh will be sentenced to 12 months in jail for attempted assault in the second degree as a hate crime and six months for criminal possession in the fourth degree

Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks during a press conference following the arraignment of former U.S. President Donald Trump April 4, 2023 in New York City.

Waseem Awawdeh, one of five defendants charged with targeting a Jewish man in a brazen antisemitic attack that drew an outcry from New York City’s Jewish community, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to attempted assault and criminal possession of a weapon, a spokesperson for the Manhattan district attorney’s office confirmed.

He will be sentenced on June 13 to 12 months in jail for attempted assault in the second degree as a hate crime and six months for criminal possession in the fourth degree, the spokesperson told Jewish Insider on Tuesday, noting that his sentences will be served consecutively. He was also required to make a public apology.

The sentencing effectively concludes one major chapter in a case that had drawn scrutiny from Jewish leaders in New York who alleged that Awawdeh had been given an overly lenient plea bargain amid a troubling surge in antisemitic violence.

Awawdeh, who was accused of striking Joseph Borgen four times with a crutch during a gang assault in Midtown Manhattan two years ago, had previously been offered a six-month plea deal, spurring protests from Jewish activists.

Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, defended his approach to the case in an interview with JI in January, saying his “focus” was on the “evidence that will be put forth and that does come forward during our investigation.”

Awawdeh had reportedly called Borgen a “dirty Jew” during the attack and later said he would “do it again.” He did not initiate the assault and left before it was over, the spokesperson for Bragg’s office told JI earlier this year. He had no prior criminal convictions.

On Monday, meanwhile, another defendant charged in the case, Faisal Elezzi, pleaded guilty to attempted assault in the third degree as a hate crime, the spokesperson confirmed. He will be sentenced on June 8 to three years’ probation and is required to comply with anti-bias programming through Queens Counseling for Change, the spokesperson said. 

Elezzi was also required to give a public apology for participating in the attack against Borgen, a Jewish resident of Nassau County who was violently beaten while walking to a pro-Israel demonstration in Manhattan during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Borgen, who has said he was wearing a yarmulke when he was targeted, has recalled being punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed during the attack. The incident, which coincided with a sharp uptick in antisemitic incidents across New York, was captured on video. Borgen was hospitalized after the assault.

“Antisemitic hate has no place in Manhattan, and these defendants have now pled guilty to hate crime charges and apologized for their actions following a thorough investigation by the office,” the spokesperson for Bragg’s office said in a statement to JI. “We will continue to seek accountability for the remaining defendants, who are all facing significant state prison time if convicted.”

The next court appearance for those defendants is scheduled for May 11, when a trial date is expected to be chosen, according to the district attorney’s office.

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