The Cornell University student accused of posting online threats to kill members of the university’s Jewish community appeared in federal court Wednesday and was ordered to remain behind bars for the time being.
Patrick Dai, a 21-year-old junior at the Ivy League school, was arrested Tuesday and charged federally with “posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications,” the US Attorney’s Office for New York’s Northern District announced. The charge is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Dai appeared in a Syracuse courtroom wearing an orange jail outfit and with his wrists shackled. He did not enter a plea.
He responded, “Yes, your honor,” several times after being asked questions by the judge. Dai remained straight-faced throughout the hearing, which lasted about 10 minutes. His mother sat in the second row.
The prosecution moved to detain Dai on the basis of risk of danger and risk of flight, and Dai’s defense attorney, Gabrielle DiBella, waived her client’s right to a timely detention hearing. He was remanded back into the custody of US marshals.
DiBella declined comment after the hearing. Dai is scheduled to return to court November 15.
Prosecutors say Dai published posts in an online discussion forum in which he threatened to kill and injure Cornell’s Jewish students and “shoot up” the university’s predominantly kosher dining hall, 104 West.
In one post, Dai wrote he would “bring an assault rifle to campus” and shoot Jewish people, according to the US Attorney’s Office.
The posts were written under usernames referencing Hamas, and they used anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian slogans, according to an affidavit attached to the criminal complaint.
The violent threats surfaced amid a reported spike in antisemitic incidents as the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group rages in the Middle East. Such incidents in the US increased nearly 400% in the days after Hamas attacked Israel October 7, the Anti-Defamation League has said, and antisemitism is reaching “historic levels” in the United States, FBI Director Christopher Wray told a Senate panel Tuesday. Pro-Palestinian vandalism reportedly has rattled Jewish communities in recent days in Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Rhode Island.
The Biden administration this week announced new measures aimed at combating antisemitic incidents on US college campuses, with the president telling reporters he’s “very” concerned about the rise of antisemitism. Beyond Cornell, the editor of Yale’s student-run newspaper apologized this week for the removal from two editorials about the attack on Israel of references to allegations of rape and beheadings committed by Hamas.
Cornell canceled all classes on Friday “in recognition of the extraordinary stress of the past few weeks,” school spokesperson Rebecca Valli told CNN.
The university president, Martha Pollack, also shared a message with the school community on Friday about standing against antisemitism and hate.
Pollack said the school would respond “rapidly and forcefully” to any threats of incitement to violence and outlined some steps the school plans to take going forward.
“We will not tolerate antisemitism at Cornell; indeed we will not tolerate hatred of any form, including racism or Islamophobia,” Pollack said in the message.
What we know about the suspect
Dai allegedly posted at least one threat from the Ithaca, New York, area – home to Cornell’s campus -– and admitted to posting the threatening messages in an interview with the FBI, according to the affidavit.
The FBI submitted an emergency disclosure request to the website where Dai allegedly posted the threats “to obtain and identify subscriber information” associated with the poster, according to the affidavit.