NEW YORK (AP) – A judge on Wednesday upheld hate-crime charges against a college student accused of slashing a taxi driver’s neck in an anti-Muslim attack that amplified concerns about tolerance shortly before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers said a grand jury had had enough evidence to indict Michael Enright. The judge said he planned to set a later trial date on March 30.
Enright, his parents and his lawyer said nothing as they left court.
The 22-year-old film student has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and assault as hate crimes in the Aug. 24 stabbing.
Enright asked driver Ahmed Sharif whether he was Muslim, uttered an Arabic greeting and told him to “consider this a checkpoint” before cutting him with a folding knife, prosecutors said.
After his arrest, Enright declared himself “a patriot” and told the police officers who arrested him that “you allow them to blow up buildings in this country,” according to authorities.
Enright’s lawyer, Lawrence Fisher, has said the School of Visual Arts student was beset by alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder after a trip to Afghanistan to film a documentary. He plans a psychiatric defense.
When arrested, Enright was carrying an empty bottle of scotch and notebooks describing his Afghan experiences, authorities said.
Enright was profoundly troubled by his time in Afghanistan, where he was briefly embedded with troops, according to his lawyer.
Enright was freed in October on $500,000 bail, with conditions requiring him to get alcohol-abuse treatment and mental-health care, among other things. He lives in Brewster, about 60 miles north of Manhattan.
If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison.
Enright’s arrest came amid debate over a planned Islamic center and mosque two blocks from ground zero, a subject that became a political flashpoint in the weeks before the ninth anniversary of the 2001 attacks.
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