July 20th, 2024

Lawyer for man accused of attacking Salman Rushdie says client doesn’t want offered plea deal

By Carolyn Thompson, The Associated Press on June 18, 2024.

MAYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) – The New Jersey man accused of repeatedly stabbing author Salman Rushdie is not interested in an offered plea deal that would shorten his time in state prison but expose him to federal prison on a separate terrorism-related charge, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Hadi Matar sat silently in Chautauqua County Court as lawyers outlined a proposal they said was worked out between state and federal prosecutors and agreed to by Rushdie over the past several months.

The agreement would have Matar plead guilty in Chautauqua County to attempted murder in exchange for a maximum state prison sentence of 20 years, down from 25 years. He would then also plead guilty to a yet-to-be-filed federal charge of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, which could result in an additional 20 years, attorneys said.

Matar, 26, has been held without bail since his 2022 arrest immediately after prosecutors say he attacked the acclaimed writer as he was about to address an audience at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York. Rushdie was blinded in one eye. Moderator Henry Reese also was wounded.

Matar has pleaded not guilty.

Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said Rushdie favors the “global resolution” proposed in the case, which otherwise could mean two separate trials.

“His preference was to see this matter come to an end,” said Schmidt, who initially opposed reducing the maximum state prison term.

Matar’s attorney, Nathaniel Barone, said Matar wants to take his chances at trial.

“He’s saying, `What have I got to lose?,” Barone said after the hearing.

Judge David Foley instructed Matar to discuss the offer with Barone and to provide an answer at his next appearance, July 2.

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