A lawyer for a Brooklyn man accused of attacking a rabbi inside a park argued Friday that the man is mentally ill and didn’t target the victim because of his Jewish religion.
Oniel Gilburne, 26, was charged with hate crime assault and weapons possession for allegedly throwing rocks at Avraham Gopin and punching him inside Lincoln Terrace Park in Crown Heights on Aug. 27, authorities said.
Gilburne’s attorney questioned the hate crime charges at his arraignment Friday in Brooklyn Criminal Court.
“Nothing makes it a hate crime. There is nothing indicating the cause of the assault (was) motivated by prejudice in any way — apart from how the person looked," Laura Guthrie said.
Prosecutors argued the charges were merited.
“Your Honor, this is a hate crime,” Assistant District Attorney Judd Gartenberg told Brooklyn Judge Michael Yavinski, noting how Gopin was dressed in “traditional Hasidic Jewish attire."
When the two men crossed paths, Gilburne “started screaming at (Gopin)" before picking up a rock and hitting the rabbi in the forehead and mouth, Gartenberg said.
Gopin, 63, lost two teeth from the attack and sustained a cut to his forehead which required stitches, prosecutors said.
Gilburne was ordered held on $30,000 bail Friday and ordered to stay away from the victim.
“Do you understand you have to stay away from this person?” Judge Yavinski asked Gilburne when he seemed to have trouble understanding the order of protection.
“Yeah,” Gilburne replied.
The man’s mother declined to comment outside the courtroom.
Police released video on Sept. 9 of Gilburne wearing a white T-shirt, black shorts and no shoes, running from the scene.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea on Thursday said Gilburne was being investigated as a possible suspect in other attacks in the Crown Heights area.
Police have seen a 64% jump in anti-Semitic crimes this year across the city. As of Aug. 25, cops were investigating 145 anti-Semitic crimes, most of them in Brooklyn, compared to 88 from the same time period last year, city records show.