MONSEY (New York) • Handwritten journals with anti-Semitic references were found in the home of the man charged with federal hate crimes in the stabbing and slashing of five people celebrating Hanukkah at a rabbi's house in New York, the authorities said.
Grafton Thomas, 37, was held without bail after appearing in federal court in White Plains on five counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs by attempting to kill with a dangerous weapon as well as causing injuries.
The authorities said a blood-stained 45cm machete was recovered from his car.
The bearded Thomas, his ankles shackled, shuffled into the courtroom in a prison jumpsuit on Monday. When a judge asked him if his head was clear, he said he was "not clear at all" and needed sleep. But he added: "I am coherent."
His court-appointed attorney Susanne Brody said her client has issues with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Last Saturday's stabbings come amid a series of violent attacks targeting Jews in the region that have led to increased security, particularly around religious gatherings.
A criminal complaint said journals found in Thomas' home in Greenwood Lake included comments questioning "why ppl (sic) mourned for anti-Semitism when there is Semitic genocide", and a page with drawings of a Star of David and a swastika.
A phone recovered from his car included repeated Internet searches for "Why did Hitler hate the Jews" as well as "German Jewish Temples near me" and "Prominent companies founded by Jews in America".
On the day of the stabbings, the phone's browser was used to access an article titled: "New York City increases police presence in Jewish neighbourhoods after possible anti-Semitic attacks. Here's what to know".
Defence attorney Michael Sussman said he visited Thomas' home and found stacks of notes he described as "the ramblings of a disturbed individual" but nothing to point to an "anti-Semitic motive" or suggest that Thomas "intentionally targeted" the rabbi's home.
Thomas' family said he was raised to embrace tolerance but has a long history of mental illness, including many hospitalisations.
"He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races. He is not a member of any hate groups," the family said in a statement.
Thomas served in the US Marines and was president of his class at a high school in Queens, Mr Sussman said. He attended William Paterson University between 2005 and 2007, where he played football.
Thomas' family said his mental health deteriorated over the years.
New York's FBI office said the possible life sentence that the federal charges carry "for this type of attack are severe and justified".
The five victims suffered serious injuries and at least one was in critical condition with a skull fracture. The rabbi's son was also injured.
On Sunday, Thomas pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary.