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Cornell students shocked by arrest of classmate Patrick Dai for anti-Semitic threats

NEW YORK — A Cornell University engineering student appeared before a federal judge Wednesday afternoon, accused of encouraging the murder of Jewish students on campus.

From student at prestigious Cornell School of Engineering to suspect in federal custody, prosecutors say, 21-year-old Patrick Dai threatened to kill Jewish students at Cornell University and “shoot” a kosher restaurant on campus.

“It’s obviously completely despicable and completely unacceptable that something like this is happening on an American college campus in 2023,” said Cornell student Gavi Schechter.

“I really don’t think, and I don’t believe, that anyone at Cornell would make such evil, vile, disgusting threats,” said student Sam Friedman.

But federal investigators said that’s exactly what happened when Dai posted graphic threats against Jewish students online.

“We don’t feel like we’re living in 2023. We feel like we’re living in Nazi Germany,” one student said.

Dai is a Chinese American who grew up in Pittsford, New York, about 80 miles from the Ithaca campus.

The FBI arrested Dai Tuesday evening, after tracing his IP address to the one used to post the threats online. According to the criminal complaint, Dai admitted what he did to federal agents.

“I can’t imagine what would go through someone’s mind like that. First of all, you’re making threats on this random website, like, why would you do that? I think it’s really ridiculous, and I’m glad the person was taken into custody,” said student Levi Schmuel.

Jewish students at Ivy League school are outraged and terrified.

“Do you feel safe there right now?” asked Jessica Moore of CBS New York.

“I would say no, compared to how I felt in September,” Schechter said.

“Even my family, last night we had a discussion about if I could be safe on campus or if I should come home,” said student Davian Gekman.

Overnight, Cornell University released a statement condemning these horrific threats and expressing gratitude to the FBI.

“Cornell University is grateful to the FBI for working so quickly to identify and apprehend the suspect in this case, a Cornell student, who remains in custody. We also thank Cornell Police and Chief Anthony Bellamy for their “extraordinary efforts to support the investigation and protect our campus community. The university will continue to provide assistance to law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office as this case progresses,” said Vice President for Charge of University Relations, Joel Malina. “We remain shocked and condemn these horrific anti-Semitic threats and believe they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We know that our campus community will continue to support each other in the days to come. Cornell Police will maintain their enforcement enhanced security presence on campus as the university continues to focus on meeting the needs of our students, faculty and staff.

Dai was immediately suspended after his arrest, the university said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday she wants Dai to face the harshest punishment possible and is looking into whether charges could also be filed against him.

“I want to give an example of this. Like I told these students earlier: If you do this, you will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Hochul said.

In federal court Wednesday, Dai waived his right to a bail hearing.

If convicted, Dai faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, there has been a nearly 400% increase in anti-Semitic incidents In the United States, the FBI said Jewish and Muslim Americans were being targeted.

“We’ve already seen it with the individual we arrested last week in Houston, who was studying how to make bombs and posting online about his support for the killing of Jews. And with the tragic murder of a Muslim boy from 6 years. in Illinois, what we are investigating as a federal hate crime,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

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