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Ex-Obama advisor gets plea deal to avoid hate crime charge for rant on halal vendor

1st Mar 2024
Ex-Obama advisor gets plea deal to avoid hate crime charge for rant on halal vendor

Elham Asaad Buaras

A former security adviser to President Barack Obama—accused of going on a hateful rant last year against a Manhattan halal food worker—may have his hate crime charges dropped as part of a plea deal announced earlier last month.

Stuart Seldowitz, 64, who previously served as Deputy Director of the US State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs, was arrested on November 22 on charges of aggravated harassment, hate crime stalking, stalking causing fear, and stalking at a place of employment.

Seldowitz, 64, was seen on video launching into his virulent rant.

The since-viral incident took place on Second Avenue and East 83rd Street on the Upper East Side.

Seldowitz pleaded not guilty in November to two counts of fourth-degree hate crime/stalking and one count of second-degree aggravated harassment, court records show.

However, Seldowitz reached a plea deal with authorities, allowing for the charges to be dismissed so long as he attends a 26-week anti-bias training programme in Queens, avoids arrests or interacting with the victims, and cannot violate a protection order against the halal cart worker, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Seldowitz first approached the food truck on November 7 and went back at least three other times, according to court documents.

Seldowitz’s harassment of the Egyptian man, later identified as Mohamed Hussein, 24, soon went viral. “If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, it wasn’t enough,” Seldowitz says in one exchange captured on video and posted on X.

The vendor is seen telling Seldowitz to “go, go, go, go” and “I won’t hear it.” Seldowitz then responds, “But you’re a terrorist. You support terrorism.”

Seldowitz also threatens to use his government connections to mobilise Egypt’s secret police against the vendor. “The Mukhabarat [the intelligence agency] in Egypt will get your parents. Does your father like his fingernails? They’ll take them out one by one,” he says, smiling.

Hussein, 24, told VICE News that Seldowitz harassed him three times, all of which Hussein filmed. The footage shows Seldowitz describing Prophet Muhammad as a “rapist” and telling Hussein he was going to get deported. Hussein said the attacks made him feel “very bad” and made it more difficult for him to do his job.

Following the viral incident, Seldowitz said he regretted some of the comments made but stood by others.

“The comments that went beyond him and interpreted attacks against Muslims, Arab Americans, and so on were probably not appropriate. The comments I made calling him out for his support of terrorism, I think those were appropriate,” he told News 4.

Most recently, Seldowitz had been a foreign affairs chair for Gotham Government Relations. In the wake of the incident, the group cut all ties with him. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 17.

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