Man indicted on hate crime charges for attacking Muslim worker at JFK Airport

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The Massachusetts man who allegedly assaulted and harassed a Muslim woman who works inside a lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport in January has been indicted on hate crimes charges, prosecutors announced.
Robin A. Rhodes, 57, of Worcester, MA, was indicted this week on four counts including third-degree assault, second-degree unlawful imprisonment and third-degree menacing — each charge as a hate crime — and a count of second-degree aggravated harassment, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

Hurling slurs at the victim and, at one point claiming that President Donald Trump would “get rid of all of you,” Rhodes allegedly attacked the Delta Airlines employee as she worked in the Delta Sky Lounge in Terminal 2 between 7:10 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 25.

“[Rhodes] is accused of physically and verbally attacking a woman for no apparent reason other than because of her religion,” Brown said in a statement on Thursday, March 16. “Crimes of hate will never be tolerated in Queens County, and when they do regrettably occur, those responsible will be brought to justice.”

Law enforcement sources said Rhodes had departed a flight from Aruba and was on a layover awaiting a connecting flight to Massachusetts when he spotted the employee, Rabeeya Khan, who wore a hijab while sitting in her office in the Delta Sky Lounge.

Prosecutors said Rhodes allegedly approached the office door and said, “Are you [expletive] sleeping? Are you praying? What are you doing?” He then punched the door, which then struck the back of the chair on which Khan was sitting.

When Khan asked Rhodes what he was doing, prosecutors said, he then threatened to assault her, then kicked her in the right leg. Khan then moved toward another corner of the office, but Rhodes allegedly kicked the door, stepped inside the office and blocked her path.

Prosecutors said another individual who witnessed the incident approached Rhodes and tried to calm him down. He moved away from the door, and Khan managed to run out of the office to the front desk of the lounge.

Rhodes, however, allegedly wasn’t finished with his attack. Authorities said he then followed Rhodes to the front desk, then went to his knees and mocked a Muslim praying. He then shouted, “[Expletive] Islam, [expletive] ISIS, Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kind of people. You will see what happens.”

Members of the Port Authority Police Department responded to the incident and took Rhodes into custody. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted of the charges against him.

It was just one example of a number of hate crimes and other incidents that have occurred in Queens and elsewhere in the United States since Donald Trump was elected president last November. The Queens native campaigned on a platform that included banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and building a wall on the border with Mexico.

On the day of Rhodes’ attack at JFK, President Trump signed an executive order suspending immigration from certain Middle Eastern nations and ordering the wall’s construction, measures which he claims will bolster national security. That order was eventually overturned by the courts, and a revised executive order on immigration that Trump issued last month is also being challenged in federal court.

Robert Pozarycki

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