Assailant Sentenced to 3 Years for 2021 Attack on Jew Near Pro-Israel Rally

By Reuvain Borchardt

Joseph Borgen in the hospital following the assault.

An Arab man who beat a Jew near a pro-Israel rally in 2021 was sentenced to at least three years in prison on Wednesday — the last of five defendants in the case to be sentenced in the gang assault that left the victim hospitalized with a concussion.

Mohammed Said Othman, 29, cried in the courtroom and apologized to victim Joseph Borgen and the Jewish community before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Felicia Mennin sentenced him to the terms of his plea agreement with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office: three years in prison, followed by three years post-release supervision on one count of attempted gang assault in the second degree; and to 1 1/3-4 years in prison on one count of assault in the third degree as a hate crime, to run concurrently. 

On May 20, 2021, as Israel and Hamas were warring in Gaza, Borgen, then 27, had just exited the subway at the Times Square station and was headed to a nearby pro-Israel rally when he was set upon by a group of Arab assailants, who yelled, “Dirty Jew,” “Filthy Jew,” “Hamas is going to kill you,” and, “Go back to Israel,” as they struck him and sprayed him with pepper spray. 

Othman was one of the at least five men and one juvenile who participated in the assault. He grabbed Borgen, threw him to the ground, sat on his chest and repeatedly punched him in the face.     

The incident, captured on video by bystanders, was the most infamous in a string of attacks on Jews in New York and across the country by supporters of Palestinians during that war.

According to the DA, in the days leading up to the rally, Othman and his co-defendants discussed attending a pro-Palestinian counter-protest in Times Square and discussed ways to conceal their identities.

Around 7:00 p.m., the defendants left the pro-Palestinian protest and began walking uptown on Broadway, where they encountered Borgen, who was wearing a yarmulke but no Israel paraphernalia.   

Borgen did not say anything to the defendants, who confronted him and chased him down the street, where they beat and pepper-sprayed him.

Borgen suffered a concussion, and has had lasting damage to his wrist, which will require a second surgery, in addition to other physical injuries and mental trauma.

In court Wednesday, Othman, who has been in jail since his guilty plea September 29, apologized to Borgen and the Jewish community. He began speaking about his wife and baby son, but had to stop after becoming emotional. After pausing and composing himself, Othman continued, admitting he had done something wrong, and saying he wanted to raise his son in the proper way and be a good example for him. 

Mennin sentenced him to the term agreed in the plea deal, saying he had cooperated fully with his probation officer and had stayed out of trouble since his arrest.

The other four adult defendants in the case have all previously been sentenced to prison terms:

Mahmoud Musa pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree assault as a hate crime and was sentenced to seven years in prison plus five years probation.

Another defendant named Mohammed Othman pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree assault as a hate crime, and was sentenced to 5 ½ years in prison followed by five years probation.

Waseem Awawdeh pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted assault as a hate crime, and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and was sentenced to 364 days in prison for the first offense and six months for the second, to be served consecutively, for a total of 18 months.

Faisal Elezzi pleaded guilty to third-degree attempted assault as a hate crime, for a promised sentence of three years’ probation with required compliance with anti-bias programming, but after subsequently being arrested on a marijuana charge in violation of his plea agreement, he was sentenced to 60 days in jail, concurrent with the three-year probation period.

The case of the sixth defendant, a juvenile, is being handled in Family Court. Family Court spokespersons did not respond to Hamodia’s request for information on the disposition of that case.

 “These defendants violently targeted and assaulted another individual simply because he is Jewish,” DA Bragg said in a statement Wednesday. “While this Office will always support the right to peacefully protest and engage in open dialogue, these multi-year prison sentences make clear that physically attacking someone because of their religion is never acceptable. I thank our Hate Crimes Unit for its diligent work in this case.”   

Borgen, who has files civil cases against the defendants, told Hamodia he is pleased with the outcome of the criminal case and the work of the DA’s Office.

“I am satisfied with the sentence, and I want to thank DA Bragg and his team for taking this case seriously and achieving justice and accountability for the attackers,” said Borgen, who later Wednesday attended a rally coordinated by End Jew Hatred to protest antisemitism in public schools and on college campuses. “It sends a strong message that hate crimes perpetrated against Jews or people of any other ethnicity won’t be taken lightly. In light of everything that’s going on in Israel and around the world since October 7th, we need to continue to stand up and fight for our rights to live, worship, and express ourselves freely.”

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