Police: NYC subway riders beaten after ‘Happy Hanukkah’ greeting
NEW YORK — Four Jewish subway riders who wished other people “Happy Hanukkah” were pelted with anti-Semitic remarks before being beaten, police and prosecutors said. The incident was being investigated as a possible hate crime.
The four were on a train in lower Manhattan on Friday night, during the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights, when they were approached by a group of 10 people who offered holiday greetings. The victims responded, “Happy Hanukkah,” and then were assaulted by the larger group, police said Tuesday.
Police caught up with the train one stop later, in Brooklyn, and arrested eight men and two women, ages 19 and 20.
They were arraigned Saturday on charges of assault, menacing, riot, harassment and disorderly conduct, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said. They all pleaded not guilty. The case was being handled by the office’s civil rights bureau, and charges could be upgraded to hate crimes, prosecutors said.
The two men and two women who were attacked had bruises and welts on their faces and heads, police said.
One of the men charged, Joseph Jirovec, pleaded guilty last year to attempted robbery as a hate crime and was awaiting sentencing, prosecutors said. Jirovec, who is white, was part of a group that yelled racial epithets and assaulted two black teenagers in Brooklyn, prosecutors said.
Jirovec’s lawyer, Peter Mollo, said Tuesday it was very unlikely his client would attack another person for being Jewish.
“His mother was Jewish,” Mollo said. “It’s very unlikely he would do something like this at all.”
State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents Brooklyn, said he was disturbed by news of the incident.
“Where is this coming from when young people are involved in this kind of behavior?” he asked. “You would think we’ve learned from the past. Something rotten is going on.”