Creepy Social Media Trail in NYC Hate Crime Case


     MANHATTAN (CN) – About six months after he was charged with stabbing a Muslim worshiper outside a Queens mosque, a self-described operative for an elite, Jewish anti-terrorism unit apparently blew the cover for his nom de guerre on Google Plus.
     “I made it to Number 1 on the NYC Most Wanted List for fighting against the Islamic Brotherhood in the U.S.,” the first post associated with the user name Bernard Richards states. “My real name is Bernhard Laufer.”
     Laufer, 56, faces hate-crime charges in Queens for the Nov. 18, 2012, attempted murder of a man who had been opening the doors of Flushing’s Masjid al-Saalliheen Mosque for morning prayers.
     It took the Queens County District Attorney’s Office nearly eight months to link Laufer to the crime, but their suspect has kept busy on the road to trial.
     Death threats that Laufer admitted to sending the leader of the Council on American Islamic-Relations last year landed him in jail for 13 months. A federal judge sentenced him to time served, and he has been free on bail since July 7 with the condition of federal monitoring and outpatient psychiatric treatment.
     Prosecutors agreed to the lenient sentence in that case in light of a forensic psychologist’s finding that Laufer has been forcibly institutionalized multiple times in his 45-year struggle with mental illness.
     As for Laufer’s still-pending prosecution for the mosque attack, defense attorney Alex Eisemann revealed his plans last month for Laufer to pursue a possible insanity defense.
     “My client has suffered from an extremely serious bipolar and schizoaffective disorder since the age of 17,” Eisemann said in an email. “He’s struggled to get it under control his entire life and he’s had long periods of success and stability.”
     The “Bernard Richards” Google Plus account seems to showcase that struggle.
     On May 7, 2014, four months after coming out as Laufer in his debut post, “Richards” spoke about using a “temporary head fake” to escape his recent trouble with the law.
     “I guess it took me 56 years to turn into a real basket case, and I have the record to prove it,” the post states. “That was a temporary head fake because I have friends from all over the world that want to cut off my head and my balls including the Queens District Attorney’s Office, NYPD and the NYC Penal Department.”
     For Eisemann, however, Laufer’s “grandiose statements disavowing his mental illness” are not his “true belief.”
     “Richards” gloated in a later post that he “stunned 8 million Muslims” and “got their idol Allah shaking too” with his “payback” for Hamas rocket attacks that rained down in Southern Israel.
     The Flushing mosque stabbing occurred during the height of Israel’s strikes on Gaza named Operation Pillar of Defense.
     After Laufer’s attorney spoke to Courthouse News about the social media posts Thursday, the accounts named for “Bernard Richards” on Google Plus and YouTube were deactivated. A Facebook page with that name remains online as of this writing.
     The posts, which Courthouse News preserved with screenshots, appear active mostly in early 2014, during the brief period between Laufer’s state and federal indictments.
     By turns chilling, rambling, hateful and childlike, the Facebook account includes images of a “.22 caliber starter revolver,” four knives, two ninja stars, Holocaust imagery, martial-arts training manuals, childhood mementos and family photos.
     The weapon theme continued in the YouTube account where “Richards” bookmarked videos titled “How to Defend Yourself with a Knife – The Basics,” “Knife Fighting Basics – the grip,” and “Knife Fighting: About Israeli Tactical Knife Fighting.”
     Laufer’s weapons were seized during his federal prosecution.
     References to Laufer’s legal case are ubiquitous in the Facebook account. The caption posted alongside an etching of a Star of David surrounded by Hebrew text describes the image as a Kabbalistic curse upon the NYPD detective investigating Laufer.
     A newspaper clipping of the Afghan immigrant Laufer is accused of stabbing meanwhile carries the caption “A Super Jihadi – hahaha hehehe.”
     In reality, Bashir Ahmad is a halal food vendor who survived his assault with dozens of stitches and staples on his back, thumb, head and thigh.

     The Queens District Attorney’s office declined to comment on the social media postings in light of the pending trial.
     “With that being said, we are aware of Laufer’s social media presence and have executed search warrants,” spokesman Kevin Ryan said in an email.
     The accounts reveal intimate details of Laufer’s life and prosecutions that had not been made public at the time of their postings.
     Among several totems to Laufer’s past on the Facebook page are photographs of his legal defense team and membership cards signed with Laufer’s name for a chess club, hockey club and the Jewish Defense League.
     In the caption beneath the JDL membership card, a group the FBI once investigated as a terrorist organization, the user claimed to have joined the group at age 12 and left the next year “because it was not militant enough for me, and it was not an elite Jewish Defense Organization.”
     Also insufficiently radical, to this user, are “anti-Islamist fighters like Pamela Geller, Brigitte Gabriel, Daniel Pipes, Debbie Schlussel, David Yerushalmi, and David Horowitz,” all of whom appear in the article the “Anti-Muslim Inner Circle” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a hate group monitor.
     Though he links to one of Geller’s blog posts, the user calls her part of a “racket” that “latched on to this cause just to make money.”
     The Facebook account lists the user’s “self-employed” occupation as “Destroying the Muslim Brotherhood Leadership in the US.” A Google Plus post boasts of esoteric martial arts training that can send his Muslim enemies “all to Allah’s Heaven.” One video the user “liked” on YouTube is titled “Muslim Brotherhood Infiltrates the White House,” with a still frame on President Barack Obama.
     Primus Inter Pares, a club to which “Richards” claims membership, seems to exist only in the user’s mind. Latin for “first among equals,” “Richards” says the group makes Israeli Special Forces look like “babies.”
     Court records obtained by Courthouse News quote Laufer’s forensic psychiatrist, Alexander Sasha Bardey, as saying that Laufer started imagining himself belonging to a group of elite, Jewish warriors when his father died in November 2009.
     On Facebook, “Richards” posted an image of a passport that once belonged to Laufer’s late father, along with images of a skull-like Silver Totenkopf insignia that he says his father took from the Nazis after killing an SS commander as a resistance fighter.
     Profile details for the YouTube account describe a grandfather who founded Hebronia, an Austrian fraternity dedicated to Zionism as a means to escape anti-Semitic persecution before the rise of Nazism in early 20th century.
     That grandfather died in the Transnistria concentration camp, according to the profile. The user speaks here of a father who fought the Nazis under the Russian army after surviving this camp.
     Laufer’s family has a matching background. A search of the Yad Vashem database shows that the Nazis murdered dozens of people with Laufer’s surname in Transnistria. His elderly mother had been confined in a ghetto in Romania.
     Hebronia’s history appears once on a popular genealogy website JewishGen, dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. The website’s Yizkor Book Project lists a person with Laufer’s surname as Hebronia’s founder.
     Laufer’s next court date is scheduled for Oct. 1, nearly three years after the Flushing mosque attack.
     Defense attorney Eisemann said Laufer has “regained his footing” through psychiatric treatment “both in and now out of prison,” and “he’s profoundly sorry for what he did and the consequences his actions had on others.”

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