A plea deal that will have the ringleader of a physical attack on Lawrence resident Joey Borgen serving only six months in jail was strongly criticized by Jewish leaders, including Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman.
Borgen was assaulted and pepper-sprayed by men in Times Square on May 20, 2021. Police reported the men made antisemitic remarks during the attack. One of the men involved in the assault of Borgen, Waseem Awawdeh, is due back in court on Jan. 26. He is expected to accept the plea deal, which allows him to plead guilty to attempted assault in the second degree as a hate crime. The felony charge comes with a sentence of six months of jail time and five years of probation.
Blakeman is hoping Bragg will withdraw the deal and warned of repercussions of a potential accepted plea deal.
“We are appealing to Alvin Bragg to reconsider and retract the offer of a misdemeanor for Waseem Awawdeh,” Blakeman said at the Jan. 19 news conference in Mineola. “We’re with people from the Jewish community, and every community speaking out and saying that justice must be done. Otherwise, these crimes will repeat themselves.”
A spokesman for Bragg disputed the claim made by Blakeman that Awawdeh was the ringleader of the attack on Borgen and noted that two other individuals involved in the attack face prison sentences of up to 15 years.
“Antisemitic hate has no place in Manhattan and the Office is requiring felony hate crime pleas and incarceration for three men charged in connection to this despicable attack,” the spokesman said. “Our Hate Crimes Unit made these appropriately strong recommendations following a thorough investigation that illuminated facts, evidence, and varying levels of culpability among this group of individuals.”
Bragg’s office offered additional rationale as to why the plea deal was offered. According to a spokesperson, Awawdeh is charged with striking the victim four times with his crutch and did not pepper spray, kick, or punch Borgen or initiate the attack. Awawdeh was the sixth person to join the attack and left before it was over. Awawdeh also has no past criminal convictions.
Former Assemblyman, Dov Hikind blasted the district attorney’s decision amid what he claimed, comes amidst rising levels of hate crimes.
“There has been an outbreak of Jewish hatred in this country and in the New York area, like we’ve never seen before in history,” Hikind said.” We’ve never witnessed what we are witnessing now. Jews are being attacked on a regular basis. It is unbelievable what is going on.”
Rabbi Axelrod from Young Israel of Woodmere, expressed his disappointment in the proposed plea deal by the district attorney and referenced how days after Borgen was attacked, thousands came out in the middle of the Covid crisis to rally in Andrew J. Parise Park in Cedarhurst to call out antisemitism and to seek justice to show support for Jewish people around the world.
“Never did we imagine that he would suffer a second injustice by having a DA, go ahead and charge it as a misdemeanor with a very insignificant punishment,” Axelrod said.
In a video message played at the Thursday news conference Borgen said: “This past year and a half since the attack has been a major whirlwind and it’s times like these, when things are really getting tough, that the support of the community and the larger Jewish as a whole really means the world to me, to get through all these tough times.”