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Cornell student accused of threatening Jewish students makes first court appearance

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Patrick Dai will remain in jail as prosecutors continue to build their case against the man they say made anti-Semitic and threatening comments against Jewish students at Cornell University. Dai is charged with making a threat crossing interstate lines, and faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Dai appeared in chains with an orange jumpsuit as he stood beside his public defender in federal court in Syracuse Wednesday; U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Brown and his team moved for Dai’s detention citing the suspect is a danger to the public and at risk of flight.

The Cornell Junior waived his right to a detention hearing, meaning for now there has been no discussion with Federal Magistrate Thérèse Wiley Dancks about setting bail or any other kind of conditional release. Instead, Dai has effectively opted to remain in jail for the time being, but has the option to request a detention hearing at any time.

No plea was entered in the case, as the Northern District Attorney’s Office says defendants cannot be asked to plea one way or the other with this type of federal complaint. A plea can only be made once there is an indictment from a Grand Jury or otherwise.

Also appearing in court were Dai’s mother and a family friend. His mother declined to comment leaving the courtroom, as did Dai’s public defender Gabrielle Dibella.

Dai is accused of writing several violent anti-Semitic threats targeting Jewish people at Cornell on “Greekrank”, an online messaging board for discussions about Greek life on various college campuses. Dai allegedly wrote his posts in the Cornell section under anonymous names like “kill jews” or “hamas.” These posts are vile and specific; discussing a mass shooting at the kosher dining hall on campus, a bombing at the Center for Jewish living, and otherwise advocating for the harm of Jewish men, women and children. These posts also contain pro-Hamas language, with the threats seeming to be in retaliation for Israel’s attacks on Gaza following Hamas’ assault on October 7.

New York State Police arrived Monday to assist Cornell Police in enhanced security measures at the Center for Jewish living, while the FBI assisted with a background investigation. According to the criminal complain from an FBI agent, officials were able to trace IP addresses back to a location in Ithaca as well as a location in Pittsford, NY, where Dai is from. Law enforcement executed a federal search warrant at a home in the Rochester suburb on Tuesday night; meanwhile, the FBI interviewed Dai at Cornell, where the agent said he admitted to being the author of these threats.

A preliminary hearing is set for November 15 at 2 p.m.

The agent’s complaint charges Dai with violating 18 U.S. Code 875 (c), which states “Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.”

Peter Pullano, an expert defense attorney and managing partner with Tully Rinckey, said that the trouble for prosecutors will be proving specific individuals were targeted. He said that the defense will likely try to highlight the idea that these threats are broad, but given the fact he targeted the Center for Jewish living, its unclear how the case will go should it go to trial.

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