By Gina Martinez
A Rego Park man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison after a vicious attack on a man entering a mosque in Kew Gardens Hills, the Queens DA said.
Bernhard Laufer, 59, was found guilty of attempted murder as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime, and weapon possession, Brown said.
Laufer was sentenced Wednesday to 20- years in prison, according to the DA.
According to trial testimony, on Nov. 16, 2012 Laufer vandalized the Masjid- Al Saaliheen Mosque on 72-55 Kissena Blvd. by smashing the door and breaking the door handle with a stone. Later that day, and the following day, Laufer called the mosque multiple times, leaving threatening voice mails. On Nov. 18, 2012, at 4:50 a.m., Laufer followed Bashir Ahmad, 57, up the stairs that led into the mosque and as Ahmad was unlocking the door, Laufer stabbed him in the head, Brown said.
“As I’ve said many times in the past, crimes fueled by hate will never be tolerated in Queens County – the most diverse urban area in the entire nation,” Brown said. “The defendant in this case waged a war of terror against this mosque. Before this vicious attack, he repeatedly called the mosque and threatened to kill all Muslims. He vandalized the door of the mosque and when the victim was opening the place of worship for morning prayer, he stabbed the man in the head, arm, back, hand and bit his nose, leaving the victim with permanent scars and a daily reminder of the heinous, unprovoked attack. A jury found him guilty and a judge has now sentenced the defendant to a lengthy term behind bars.”
According to trial records, Laufer left his glasses at the scene. DNA evidence was found on the glasses that matched Laufer, according to the DA. Investigators were also able to trace the threatening phone calls made days before the attack to Laufer’s home phone.
This was not Laufer’s first brush with the law. In 2015 he was sentenced to three years of supervised release and six months of home confinement after pleading guilty to sending death threats to employees of the Washington advocacy group, Council on American Islamic Relations. He threatened Executive Director Nihad Awad and other CAIR staff with significant bodily harm and death, according to the criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department.
Laufer faced a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for the email threats. At the time Laufer had already spent 13 months in federal custody for his arrest in the Kew Gardens mosque attack and was sentenced based on time served.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart