Muslim woman assaulted at JFK airport; man charged with hate crimes

Muslim women participate in a self defence class Dec 16, 2016 in New York.
Muslim women participate in a self defence class Dec 16, 2016 in New York.PHOTO: AFP
Muslim women participate in a self defence class in New York City on Dec 16, 2017.
Muslim women participate in a self defence class in New York City on Dec 16, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - A Massachusetts man who yelled that President Donald Trump "will get rid of all of you" faces nine hate crime charges for assaulting a female Muslim airline employee at New York's John F Kennedy International Airport, authorities said.

Robin Rhodes, 57, of Worcester is accused of assaulting Rabeeya Khan, who was wearing a hijab, or head scarf, while working at Delta Airlines' Sky Lounge on Wednesday (Jan 26, 2017) evening, prosecutors said in a statement.

Rhodes, who was waiting for a connecting flight home after arriving from Aruba, approached the door of the office where Khan was working and said, "Are you sleeping? Are you praying? What are you doing?"

He punched the door, which struck Khan's chair, and then he threatened her and kicked her in the right leg, according to the statement by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Khan tried to flee, but Rhodes blocked her until a passerby stopped and attempted to calm him down, the statement said.

She was then able run out of the office. Rhodes followed her to the lounge's front desk, where he got down on his knees and began to bow in imitation of a Muslim praying, prosecutors said.

"Trump is here now," Rhodes shouted, according to Brown's statement. "He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You will see what happens."

According to the statement, Khan suffered pain in her right leg and was afraid he was going to hurt her more.

Delta spokesman Anthony Black said Khan worked for an Israeli company that provides services to the airline, which had reached out to her employer to offer support. In a statement, the airline said: "People who are violent or exhibit bullying behavior are not welcome."

Rhodes is due to be arraigned in Queens Criminal Court where he will face nine hate crime charges including third-degree assault, second-degree unlawful imprisonment and first-degree harassment. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.

An official at Brown's office said Rhodes had a lawyer, but that the attorney's contact details were not immediately available.