January 2019 -- Tevet-Shevat 5779,  Volume 25, Issue 1

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SUNY Purchase Student Charged with Hate Crime

On December 11, 2018, Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. announced Purchase College student Gunnar Hassard, 18, was arraigned in Harrison Town Court for Aggravated Harassment in the First Degree, a class E felony, for hanging posters with Nazi symbolism in areas of the campus. Bail was set at $5,000 cash or bond. His next acourt date is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2019.


On Sunday evening, December 8, 2018, during the Jewish celebration of Chanukah, the felony complaint alleges that 18-year-old Gunnar Hassard of Oneonta, NY, and a student at SUNY Purchase, hung multiple posters, which incorporated a swastika and symbols of Nazi Germany, on and near the Humanities Building.


The complaint states that the defendant posted multiple flyers on the campus “frequented and utilized by members of the Jewish community…causing alarm, fear and annoyance to the members of the campus community during the Jewish holiday of Chanukah.”


New York State University Police arrested Hassard and charged him with Aggravated Harassment, a hate crime which specifically states a person is guilty of this crime when one “Etches, paints, draws upon or otherwise places a swastika, commonly exhibited as the emblem of Nazi Germany, on any building or other real property…”


“We are disheartened and disappointed to hear that Nazi themed posters were discovered on the campus of SUNY Purchase College,” stated the Westchester County Human Rights Commission. “This anti-Semitic act and any other acts of prejudice or hate will not be tolerated within our County.   We commend the immediate and appropriate response of Dennis Craig, Officer in Charge and Vice President of Student Affairs at SUNY Purchase, the diligent response of the Harrison Police Department and Westchester County District Attorney’s office in apprehending and arresting the alleged perpetrator, who was charged.


Our office remains vigilant in protecting the dignity and respect of all people in Westchester County.”


On this matter, Congresswoman Nita Lowey said, “It is with the same resolve and courage in which Jews prevailed that we today must confront the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism at home and abroad. Only by working together will we root out hatred and bigotry in all forms.”


State Assemblyman David Buchwald agreed and noted, “All people of goodwill should come together to denounce hate in our society and especially on our school campuses.”


Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Adimari, Chief of the Westchester District Attorney Rye Branch, is prosecuting the case.