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Cornell student who made threats to Jewish people will remain in custody

Ava Pukatch

The Cornell student who allegedly made violent and antisemitic threats toward his campuses' Jewish community will remain in custody after he had a bail hearing Thursday in Syracuse federal court. He did not enter a plea.

Patrick Dai, a 21-year-old Cornell student from Monroe County, had originally waived his right to a bail hearing during his first court appearance but had an option to request one later. Public Defender Lisa Peebles is now representing Dai and scheduled the hearing.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thérèse Wiley Dancks presided.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Green said Dai had expressed suicidal thoughts and had attempted to kill himself twice last week with a plastic bag. Green said Dai said he considered suicide by grabbing the steering wheel of the car to drive off a cliff as his mom drove him back to Cornell.

Peebles argued that detaining Dai because he expressed suicidal thoughts is not humane and said detention will result in his mental health deteriorating.

Peebles said Dai has an undiagnosed developmental disability. She said he did not have a linear way of thinking and his intent with the posts was to educate people on the horrors of Hamas and vilify the terrorist organization, not carry them out himself saying Dai is "pro-Israel".

Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Brown said Dai made some of the posts from an IP address at his mother's home in Pittsford where he had access to a shotgun and a katana, which is a type of sword.

"He was never going to do it? He encouraged other people," Brown said.

Peebles also said Dai madean apology post after he realized he made a mistake. Brown said the apology post was anonymously made using a VPN and was not Dai taking responsibility nor did he turn himself in.

Wiley Dancks said she struggled with Peebles argument on the intent of the posts saying looking at the nature of the threats, anyone reading them, especially if they were Jewish, would be really frightened.

The judge noted Dai has serious ties to a foreign country as his father works and lives in China and his parents financially support him and could potentially help him flee. She also said Dai's mental health issues made him a flight risk.

"He's unstable," the judge said. "He's erratic. Bad things happen with that combo."

Wiley Dancks said she couldn't think of any conditions for release that wouldn't harm Dai's community or family. She said the country is "drowning in mass shootings."

"You're worth saving just like the lives of those you threatened," Wiley Dancks said. "But I need to make sure you don't hurt anyone else."

Dai did not speak during the hearing. His mother, Bing Liu, sat in the court gallery. After the hearing, she leaned over to him saying "We love you Patrick. We love you," and Dai broke down crying.

In requesting the bail hearing, Dai waived his right to a preliminary hearing which was originally scheduled for next week.

Dai is charged with posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications which carries a maximum term of 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.