3 Men Who Beat Jew in Times Square Plead Guilty, to Spend Years in Prison

By Reuvain Borchardt

L-R: Mohammed Othman and Mahmoud Musa (Reuvain Borchardt/Hamodia/File)

NEW YORK — Three men who assaulted a Jew near a pro-Israel rally in Times Square in 2021 each pleaded guilty this week to a hate crime and will spend years in prison.

Mahmoud Musa and Mohammed Othman pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of second-degree assault as a hate crime, and Mohammed Said Othman pleaded guilty Friday to second-degree attempted gang assault and third-degree assault as a hate crime, for a May 20, 2021 attack that left the victim, Joseph Borgen, with multiple injuries including a concussion.

The assault occurred blocks from a pro-Israel rally being held as Israel and Hamas were warring in Gaza. Borgen, then 29, had just exited the subway at the Times Square station several blocks from the rally, when he was set upon and beaten by the group of Arab men and one juvenile. The assailants allegedly yelled, “Dirty Jew,” “Filthy Jew,” “Hamas is going to kill you,” and, “Go back to Israel,” as they struck Borgen repeatedly. Borgen told Hamodia he was simply wearing a yarmulke and no Israel paraphernalia, and that he did not exchange any words with his assailants prior to the assault.

Borgen says the assault caused lasting damage to his right wrist — he has already had one surgery and undergone physical therapy twice weekly for more than a year, and a second surgery will now be necessary. He is also filing a civil suit against the assailants.

As part of their guilty pleas Thursday, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office agreed to recommend that Musa and Othman each receive a sentence of five years in state prison followed by five years probation. Judge Felicia Mennin accepted the guilty plea and required Musa and Othman to sign a waiver of appeal. But she reminded Musa and Othman that she was not bound by the DA’s sentencing recommendation and that she could sentence them anywhere within the statutory range of 3 ½ to 15 years.

Borgen in the hospital after the assault.

Mennin also said that since Musa and Othman arrived more than a half hour late for their appearance in court Thursday, and in light of the seriousness of their offenses, she was remanding them until next month’s sentencing.

As they were handcuffed, a sobbing Musa apologized to the court, to Borgen, and to Borgen’s supporters in the courtroom. 

On Friday, Mohammed Said Othman pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted gang assault, in exchange for a promised sentence of three years in prison and three years post-release supervision; and third-degree assault as a hate crime with a promised sentence of 1-1/3 to four years in prison, to run concurrently.

He ,too, was ordered remanded, and his supporters in the courtroom wept as he was placed in handcuffs.

Two other defendants have previously pleaded guilty in this, the most infamous of a string of attacks by supporters of Palestinians on Jews in New York and around the country during the 2021 Israel-Hamas war.

Faisal Elezzi pleaded guilty in April to third-degree attempted assault as a hate crime, for a promised sentence of three years’ probation with required continued compliance with anti-bias programming through Queens Counseling for Change. 

Waseem Awawdeh, who hit Borgen three times in the back with a metal crutch as he lay on the ground and was being punched and kick by the other defendants, was initially offered a plea deal of six months in jail. That offer made headlines as it was criticized as too lenient by Borgen, Jewish organizations and figures including former Assemblyman Dov Hikind. The New York Post wrote an article on the offer titled “Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg Offers Sweetheart Plea Deal to Suspect in Brutal Anti-Semitic Attack.” And Borgen’s father participated in Republican-led U.S. House hearing on Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s allegedly soft-on-crime policies.

Mennin rejected the deal, and the DA’s Office subsequently came back with a new offer that Mennin, and Awawdeh, accepted: Awawdeh pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted assault as a hate crime, and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, for a sentence of 364 days in prison for the first offense and six months for the second, to be served consecutively for a total of 18 months.

At Awawdeh’s hearing last June, Mennin said, “The behavior of the group [of assailants] was despicable, disgraceful and not how people behave in civilized society.” Awadeh, too, was taken into custody immediately upon making his plea.

Borgen was critical of Awawdeh’s new deal as well, saying in court in June, “Why is he getting a deal? Why is he getting a break?” calling the sentence a “slap on the wrist.”

However, Borgen told Hamodia on Friday that he was “satisfied” with the disposition of the other four defendants’ cases.

“I think this sets a good example and  a good precedent going forward that you can’t just attack a Jew in the street and get away with it,” Borgen said.

(The case of the sixth defendant, a juvenile, is being handled in Family Court.)

Borgen credited strong support from the Jewish community and various organizations “that kept the pressure on the DA’s office to ensure a good outcome.”

Mitch Silber, executive director of the Community Secuity Initiative, one of the organizations and activists who pressured the DA’s office, told Hamodia on Friday, “We have been in constant contact with the DA’s office to ensure that justice would be served. We are pleased with the result that put four assailants in prison, and we hope that these prison terms reverberate outside the courthouse so that people will think twice about attacking a Jew in New York City.”

In a statement to Hamodia on Friday, Bragg said, “Antisemitic attacks will not be tolerated in Manhattan and these guilty pleas demonstrate the accountability my office will seek for crimes motivated by hate and bias.  We will prosecute those who harm our fellow New Yorkers because of their religious faith or background and work closely with our communities to address the root causes of hate crimes to prevent others from being harmed.”

Musa, Othman and Said Othman will be sentenced October 25.


To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!