Editor’s Note: This article contains mentions of self-harm and violence.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Patrick Dai ’24 will remain in jail awaiting trial following a detention hearing on Thursday, Nov. 9 in the Northern District of New York, where new details of the case were revealed.
Standing before Judge Therese W. Dancks, Dai’s new representation under public defender Lisa Peebles argued that he was not a risk to the community and that he has an undiagnosed developmental disability that was exacerbated at Cornell into severe mental health issues.
The federal prosecutors, led by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Geoffrey Brown and Stephen Green, stated that his antisemitic threats posed a severe risk to the community and that his release could lead to further terror and dangerous actions. They also stated that his suicidal ideations pose a risk of flight, in addition to his connection to a foreign country as his father currently resides in China.
Dancks ordered Dai’s detention on the grounds that his threats were vile and terrorized the Jewish community, and that his online threats were consistent with those of other mass shooters in recent U.S. history. She ruled that he exhibits unstable and erratic behavior and is concerned about his risk of suicide and danger to his family, as he previously told investigations that he considered grabbing the steering wheel of his mother’s car while she was driving him to Cornell in an attempt to drive them off a cliff.
The prosecutors also cited Dai’s ability to access a shotgun in his family’s home and a Katana — a Japanese sword characterized by a curved, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands — as probable cause for Dai to be a risk for the community’s safety.
Dai will remain detained in Broome County jail until his trial, which is yet to be scheduled.
Green noted that Dai attempted suicide by asphyxiation using a plastic bag on Monday, Oct. 30 and Tuesday, Oct. 31, and he recently purchased a book on the most effective ways to kill oneself.
Green also stated that review of Dai’s laptop revealed internet searches from 2022 and 2023 regarding mass shootings, neo-nazism and antisemitism — including an incident during which a man fired blanks in a San Francisco synagogue. Dai also searched the success rates of suicide methods and how to change the IP address of a phone.
Peebles argued that detention would punish Dai for his poor mental health and further worsen his struggles. She stated Dai’s intent for the threats was to attempt to convince others that Hamas was evil, and that Dai holds no antisemitic beliefs.
She stated that Dai was distressed by a New York Times article that initially blamed Israel for the bombing of a Gazan hospital, which relied on information provided by the Hamas-run health ministry. Since the initial reports, Israel has denied responsibility, which was corroborated by U.S. intelligence.
Peebles also stated that Dai was influenced by a Cornell professor’s “espousing elation” following Hamas’s attacks — referring here to Prof. Russell Rickford, history, who came under fire for a statement made at a pro-Palestine rally on Oct. 15.
Peebles referred to a letter from a high school classmate of Dai’s, who stated Dai was kind and intelligent but had trouble socializing and fitting into social norms. Peebles stated that she believed Dai likely had an undiagnosed developmental disorder, likely autism, saying Dai did not think “like you or I would think.”
Peebles said she hired an expert to evaluate Dai for autism and requested Dai have access to mental health treatment as well as his glasses — which she said he required to read and were not provided in jail — during his detention.
Following his arrest, Dai’s mother, Bing Liu, noted her son’s persistent struggles with mental health. Liu cited these struggles, as well as Dai’s use of antidepressants and therapy to address them, as potential influences on his actions. The defense stated that the medication was not working and was in turn causing adverse effects.
The Judge and federal prosecutors stated that no one could interpret Dai’s posts as a way to exhibit the evilness of Hamas. In his threats, Dai encouraged his peers to rape and murder Jewish people on campus and threatened a mass shooting at 104 West, the home of the Center for Jewish Living and kosher dining hall.
Brown stated that regardless of his intent, Dai threatened the Jewish community and instilled terror in residents. Brown cited testimonies from students who claimed their parents drove to campus to drive them home after the threats because they feared for their safety.
Additionally, Brown cited Dai’s use of a VPN to publish an apology to Greekrank under the name “I am sorry” did not identify himself as the culprit of all of the threats posted to the site, which would not appease the worries in the community. This confirms the earlier statements of Dai’s mother that he apologized for his words four hours after the last threat was posted online, without stating his identity.
Dai appeared in federal court on Thursday alongside Peebles, his mother, an unidentified family friend and a paralegal.
Dai cried through the entirety of the hearing. Liu appeared serious and calm. Following the hearing, Liu spoke to Dai from the side of the courtroom in Chinese. Upon hearing his mother, Dai started to sob and covered his face with a tissue box. Liu continued to try to speak to him and told him in English “We love you Patrick, ok?” while Dai lowered his head and continued to try to cover his face.
Despite her concern for Dai’s potential to pose danger to himself, his family and the communities of which he is a part, Dancks expressed sympathy for Dai as she ordered his detention.
“You matter. … Your life is worth saving,” Dancks said. “Everyone’s life is worth saving.”
Charged on Oct. 31 with posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications, Dai will face a maximum of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release of up to three years if convicted.
At his arraignment hearing on Nov. 1, Dai’s initial representation, Assistant Federal Public Defender Gabrielle DiBella, told the court Dai waived his right to a timely detention hearing — leading to his ineligibility for bail and immediate detention in a Broome County jail. However, Dai’s new representation under Peebles requested to hold this detention hearing.
Dai also waived his right to a preliminary hearing, originally scheduled for Nov. 15.
Update, Nov. 9, 4:19 p.m.: This article has been updated to include more details of the hearing.