Binghamton, NY Al-Zahrani Professor Stabbing Trial

Posted: February 17, 2011 in Binghamton NY, Islam
Tags: , , , ,

update from February 18, 2011: Trial postponed for a second time.

WBNG-TV Action News, February 18, 2011:

The Broome County District Attorney’s Office says the court has postponed the murder trial for Abdusalam al-Zahrani, 45, from Saudi Arabia.

An examination by two Broome County psychologists this week determined he is incompetent to stand trial. [...]

The DA’s office says doctors concluded Al-Zahrani lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or assist in his own defense.

An order of examination has been issued, and he will be committed to a state mental health facility.

He could be tried if and when he is found to be competent again. [backup link]

Trial location: Broome County Court in Binghamton, NY

First, here’s a quick summary:

Richard Antoun:
77 years old at time of death.
Professor emeritus of anthropology at Binghamton University.
Was stabbed at least 4 times by the six-inch blade of a kitchen knife in his Binghamton University office in the Science I building at approximately 1:41pm.
Died after being taken to Wilson Regional Medical Center in Johnson City, NY on December 4th, 2009.
“a sociocultural anthropologist who has conducted research among peasants in Jordan, urbanites in Lebanon, peasant-farmers in Iran, and migrants in Texas and Greece”
“He taught at the University of Chicago, Manchester University in England and Cairo University”
“Mr. Antoun had written six books focusing on the Middle East, and spent much of his long career educating people about the region and its people. His 2001 book, “Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Muslim and Jewish Movements,” was particularly timely, coming out just before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He retired from teaching at Binghamton University in 1999, but remained active on campus and within the anthropology department.”
Attended the Binghamton Unitarian Universalist church and was involved in a local Progressive group called “Broome County Peace Action”.
Wife is an employee of the local Jewish Federation.
“Antoun’s scholarly interests centered on comparative religion and symbolic systems, as well as the social organization of tradition in Islamic law and ethics. Colleague Michael Little, distinguished professor of anthropology, said Antoun was ‘very sensitive to Islamic culture.’ “
“Antoun earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Williams College, his master’s in international relations from Johns Hopkins University and his PhD in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from Harvard. A Fulbright Scholar in Eqypt early in his career, he conducted field work in Jordan, Lebanon and Iran among other locations.”
Antoun was seemingly beloved by everyone. Often called kind and peaceful.

Abdulsalam Al-Zahrani:
46 years old at the time of stabbing.
Islamic Saudi national.
Charged with second degree murder for the stabbing of Richard Antoun.
Pleaded not guilty and did not request bail.
Binghamton University graduate student in Cultural Anthropology.
Was working on a doctoral thesis entitled “Sacred Voice, Profane Sight: The Senses, Cosmology, and Epistemology in Early Arabic Culture”.
Is having his lawyer and other legal fees paid for by the Saudi consulate.
Was having financial difficulties and was denied funding to continue his thesis. He wanted to study in Detroit.
Wanted to transfer out of the anthropology department and into the PIC program. [Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture]
“Police say that al-Zahrani was still in the building when they arrived. Witnesses told reporters that when police officers asked al-Zahrani about Antoun, he said, ‘Yeah, I just stabbed him.’ “
Al-Zahrani’s brother speaking: “he said his brother is a liberal but was disappointed with the perceived weaknesses of Muslims and Arabs. “My brother was keen to learn about human sciences, his ultimate goal was education. He did not get married but devoted his time to education,” said Abdul Rahman, adding that his brother had graduated from King Abdul Aziz University after studying accounting before being employed by Samba Bank and Savola Group. He then went to the US on different occasions to study his master’s and Ph.D…”
[be sure to check out the emails that he sent at the bottom of this page which are disparaging against Israelis]
The defense will attempt to show that Al-Zahrani was suffering from mental illness.

Souleymane “Jules” Sakho and Luis Pena:
Roommates of Al-Zahrani for three weeks in a three bedroom apartment in downtown Binghamton.
Souleyman is a Senegalese doctoral student Fulbright scholar studying the abolition of capital punishment and is enrolled in the PIC program (Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture).
Souleymane is a Christian convert from Islam and Luis Pena is also Christian. They both claim that Al-Zahrani put them down for their religious beliefs. Pena says that Al-Zahrani laughed at him for wearing a religious symbol around his neck.
Claim that Al-Zahrani “…was acting oddly, like a terrorist”, often mentioned death, Al-Zahrani said he was being persecuted because he was Muslim and would often ask Sakho if he was afraid of death.
Pena claims that Al-Zahrani exclaimed “I just feel like destroying the world” and would make weird remarks.
Sakho says that Al-Zahrani drew a knife on him during their first week as roommates and that Al-Zahrani would scream on the phone in Arabic.
Sakho says that Al-Zahrani confronted him about his change of religion but Sakho refused to discuss it with him.
Sakho: “He was all the time shouting in Arabic, shouting threats, insulting this country for no reason”
Pena: “He told me there were students, who were spies for the government of Jordan that were harassing him”

Joshua Price and Bill Haver:
Director of PIC (Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture) and PIC Director of Graduate Studies. Al-Zahrani wanted to transfer to the PIC program from anthropology and met with Price about it a few times including less than thirty minutes before the stabbing incident. Price also met with Souleymane Sakho three days before the incident where Sakho told him about Al-Zahrani threatening him. Price wanted to help Sakho but thought that professionals should do so instead. Price arranged for Sakho to meet with psychologist Donald Glauber.

Donald Glauber:
Binghamton University staff psychologist at the University Counseling Center.
“At 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sakho said he met with staff psychologist Donald Glauber. “I explained to him the story, (Glauber) told me that I have to avoid the guy because the guy is a bit old and he’s alone, he may have some psychological problems and he has some anxieties,” Sakho said. In a subsequent e-mail, Sakho stated Glauber told him there was nothing to worry about because Al-Zahrani had promised to move out in January and the police and landlord were already informed.”

Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen: [website]
“Attorney Gerald Mollen stated that there is no indication that the murder of Professor Antoun is a hate crime.”
“A motive for the crime still has not been released, although a press release from Mollen dismissed the idea of an ethnic or religious motivation.”

Frederica L. Miller: [website]
New York City lawyer retained by the Saudi consulate to represent Al-Zahrani.
“a 1986 graduate of Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C. She specializes in criminal defense, white collar crime and family law. A former assistant district attorney for Kings County and member of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office in New York City, Miller went into private practice in 1998. She is a member of the New York City and New York state bar associations.”

Vincent Accardi:
Al-Zahrani’s other attorney. Binghamton-based.

Steven Simring and Charles Patrick Ewing:
Medical experts for the defense.

John Roby:
32 year old graduate student who shared classes with Al-Zahrani.
Took the witness stand in pre-trial examinations because he would be out of state during the trial.
Claims Al-Zahrani was friendly and non-violent.
“He did however, remember an instance when he thought al-Zahrani acted strangely. It was September 2009, three months before Professor Antoun’s death, al-Zahrani was supposed to be in Michigan on a field study. Instead, he was at the university. When Roby approached al-Zahrani, he says there was a coldness to him. “Yes, I’m back” was his only response, and he turned away.”
“al-Zahrani seemed distracted, less friendly, cold and withdrawn.”

I’ve taken some photos for bloggers to use :

Binghamton University:

Science I building:

Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture (PIC) office:

University Counseling Center:

Anthropology Department in the Science I building:

Wilson Hospital:

Two of Antoun’s books displayed in the Science I building:

Al-Zahrani’s apartment that he shared with Souleymane Sakho and Pena:

Broome County Court:

Antoun’s church, Unitarian Universalist in Binghamton:

Now, a more involved background:

Canada Free Press, December 7, 2009:

Richard Antoun, 77, professor of Middle East studies at Binghamton University and author of several books on Islam, geopolitical and religious issues was stabbed to death at approximately 1:41 pm on Friday, 4 December 2009 by an Islamic assailant. The suspect has been identified as 46 year-old Binghamton University graduate student Abdulsalam Al-Zahrani, a Saudi national.

According to a combination of witness accounts and reports from law enforcement sources, Al-Zahrani entered the professor’s office in the science building where Antoun was working and used a kitchen knife with a six-inch blade to stab the victim at least four times.

Antoun was taken to Wilson Regional Medical Center in Johnson City, NY, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

According to a combination of sources at the scene, Binhamton University Police confronted Al-Zahrani immediately after the attack, subdued and arrested him. He was charged with one count of second degree murder by police. Al-Zahrani was arraigned Saturday before Justice Joseph Meagher in Town of Vestal court and remanded to the Broome County Jail without bail.

Investigation found that Al-Zahrani, a resident of Binghamton, NY, is a cultural anthropology graduate student who is working on his doctoral thesis titled, “Sacred Voice, Profane Sight: The Senses, Cosmology, and Epistemology in Early Arabic Culture.” Fellow students and area residents described Al-Zahrani.

Described as threatening and confrontational by his two Christian roommates, Souleymane Sakho and Luis Pena, both post-graduate students at Binghamton University, they stated that Al Zahrani often put them down due to their Christian beliefs. Al Zahrani was also described as rabidly anti-Israel, and authored several recent postings on Arabic language web sites that degraded Israel and Jews.

Antoun published several books on the Middle East, including his August 2001 work titled “Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic and Jewish Movements.”

On Saturday, Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen stated that there is no indication that the murder of Professor Antoun is a hate crime. [backup link]

JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency), December 6, 2009:

Antoun’s wife of 17 years, Rosalyn, 63, is an employee of the local Jewish federation. [backup link]

The Ithaca Journal, December 6, 2009:

Less than 30 minutes before he allegedly stabbed Binghamton University professor Richard Antoun to death on Friday, Abdulsalam Al-Zahrani approached professor Joshua Price to complain of financial troubles and inquire about transferring into the doctoral program that Price directs.

Al-Zahrani, a 46-year-old post-graduate student in the anthropology department, had met with Price once or twice before, Price said, the first time on the afternoon of Nov. 10.

Al-Zahrani asked Price at that time whether he could transfer into the Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture program that Price directs and receive financial aid.

At 1:15 p.m. Friday, Price had just finished writing an email to colleague Bill Haver regarding Al-Zahrani’s situation. Haver, currently the PIC director of graduate studies, was the program’s overall director before Price took over this year.

The email, obtained by the Press & Sun-Bulletin, read: “desperate grad student from anthropology. he’s about to be evicted and he seemed visibly nervous. he described his intellectual project, … and he’s interested in transferring to pic possibly, but he seemed most eager to get a ta’ship (teaching assistantship, a paid position).”

After finishing and sending the email, Price said he walked out of his office to find Al-Zahrani unexpectedly waiting for him.

“I closed down the computer and left the office and encountered Abdulsalam right after that, right outside my office,” Price said. “On my way down to the lobby, as I was on my way out of the building. I invited him to accompany me down to the lobby in the elevator.”

Price said he told Al-Zahrani he was checking on his request to transfer and couldn’t give him an answer just then. Price then parted company with Al-Zahrani and went off to meet some of his students for lunch.

While Price ate, Haver sent him a reply email, at 1:32 p.m., telling Price that university rules allow midyear transfers, but confirming Price’s belief that the possibility of offering a scholarship was almost nil.

Al-Zahrani never got that message.

Less than 30 minutes after Price’s ride down the elevator with Al-Zahrani — and barely 10 minutes after Haver’s email reply — professor Antoun was fatally stabbed.

His office was in a building less than 100 feet away.
Searching for money

Those who knew his situation said Al-Zahrani needed money.

He had complained about his finances to the two post-graduate students he shared a Binghamton apartment with since the day he moved in three weeks earlier.

To continue his thesis, Al-Zahrani wanted to study Middle Eastern culture outside of Binghamton, but he had not been able to secure funding, according to director of anthropology graduate studies Andrew Merriweather. [...]

According to Merriweather, Al-Zahrani wanted to study in Detroit, which has a long-established and very large Islamic community.“I think he just got to a point where he couldn’t afford to do it on his own dime,” Merriweather said.
Warning sign?

Three days prior to Antoun’s death, one of Al-Zahrani’s apartment-mates told Price, and later a university psychologist, that Al-Zahrani had threatened him and was acting irrationally.

Souleymane Sakho, who is enrolled in the PIC program that Price directs, met with Price on Tuesday and told him about a series of confrontations between him and Al-Zahrani.

During the first week they lived together, Sakho — known as “Jules” — said Al-Zahrani drew a knife on him and asked him if he was afraid of death.

Price heard Sakho’s story and arranged for him to meet with a psychologist at the University Counseling Center later that afternoon. Price said he was concerned for Sakho, but he felt any further help would best come from trained professionals.

At 3 p.m. Tuesday, Sakho said he met with staff psychologist Donald Glauber.

“I explained to him the story, (Glauber) told me that I have to avoid the guy because the guy is a bit old and he’s alone, he may have some psychological problems and he has some anxieties,” Sakho said.

In a subsequent e-mail, Sakho stated Glauber told him there was nothing to worry about because Al-Zahrani had promised to move out in January and the police and landlord were already informed.

Glauber and J. Thomas Cousins, the clinical director of the counseling center, declined comment at their homes Sunday.

“As a member of the university staff, I am not authorized to speak to the press about this,” Glauber said. “It’s a terrible tragedy, no question about it.”

“You think, OK, what were the warning signs?” Price said. “I don’t want to evaluate (the counseling staff), I don’t know whether they made any intervention besides logging the fact that they gave advice to Jules.” [backup link]

The New York Times, December 6, 2009:

…On Sunday, Mr. Zahrani’s roommates — who had lived with him for about three weeks in a three-bedroom apartment in downtown Binghamton — recounted how the suspect, who spoke of financial problems, often mentioned death and said he was being persecuted because he was Muslim.

“I said he was acting oddly, like a terrorist,” said one of the roommates, Souleymane Sakho, a graduate student from Senegal. “When I informed them, it was for them to understand that the guy was violent or he may be violent.”

Mr. Sakho said that he told his academic adviser who is overseeing his dissertation about Mr. Zahrani, and that the adviser referred him to the school’s counseling center. Mr. Sakho said that the head of the counseling center told him to avoid interaction with Mr. Zahrani and said he should look to move out of the apartment. [...]

About 10 days ago, the police were called to the three-bedroom apartment, according to Mr. Sakho. He said he was sick of Mr. Zahrani’s constantly asking him if he was afraid of death and told him to stop. Later that night, Mr. Sakho said he told his other roommate, Luis Pena, also a graduate student, that he “had enough of the situation.” Hearing them, Mr. Zahrani came out of his bedroom and accused Mr. Sakho of threatening him, Mr. Sakho said.

“I’m not the kind of person to make threats because I am a peaceful person,” said Mr. Sakho, recalling the conversation. “I just want you to stop what you are doing.”

Mr. Zahrani then called the Binghamton police, who arrived at the apartment several minutes later, Mr. Sakho said.

“I came out and wanted to explain what Zahrani was doing and they told me to go back to my room,” Mr. Sakho said. [...]

Mr. Sakho and Mr. Pena said that Mr. Zahrani told them he had lived in Montana before returning to Binghamton to finish his doctoral thesis. They said he told them that the university had recently denied his request for financial support; they added that he never talked about Dr. Antoun.

Mr. Sakho said the last time he saw Mr. Zahrani was around 1 a.m. on Friday, when Mr. Zahrani woke him up and once again asked him if he was afraid of dying. Mr. Sakho said he did not respond to Mr. Zahrani and went back to sleep. [backup link]

The Ithaca Journal, December 5, 2009:

The two apartment-mates of a man charged with stabbing a Binghamton University professor to death said Abdulsalam S. Al-Zahrani was argumentative, confrontational and threatened one of them in the three weeks they shared a first-floor unit on Main Street in Binghamton. [...]

Al-Zahrani claimed to be a Muslim, according to his apartment-mates. But he had no affiliation with the local mosque, said Kasim Kopuz, imam at the Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier in Johnson City.

“When law enforcement showed us a picture, none of us knew him,” said Kopuz. “This person was not involved in regular prayers at our mosque.”

Antoun frequently attended programs at the local mosque, said Kopuz.

Mollen didn’t reveal a motive for the stabbing, but said Al-Zahrani and Antoun knew each other through the defendant’s post-graduate anthropology study. [...]

Al-Zahrani, Sakho and Pena became roommates about three weeks ago when their landlord rented a vacant bedroom in their unit to Al-Zahrani — a common arrangement in the student housing building.

Sakho and Pena said Al-Zahrani was confrontational as soon as he moved into the bedroom nearest the kitchen of the three-room unit.

When he asked Al-Zahrani why he bummed a cigarette when he had a full pack in his bedroom, Sakho said Al-Zahrani threatened him.

“He came out of his room, he had a knife. He asked me whether I was afraid of death,” said Sakho.

Al-Zahrani walked away, which upset Sakho.

“I told him, ‘Don’t ask me the question if you don’t want to hear my answer,'” said Sakho during an interview Saturday in the apartment.

Pena recalled what he described as one of Al-Zahrani’s random outbursts.

“He was sitting on the sofa and just blurted out ‘I just feel like destroying the world,'” said Pena, 22. “He seemed like someone that’s calm, but he could flip in a second.”

Sakho said Al-Zahrani claimed some students were spying on him and he was being persecuted because he was Muslim.

Both apartment-mates felt Al-Zahrani put them down for their religious beliefs — both are Christians.

Pena said Al-Zahrani laughed at him for wearing a religious symbol around his neck.

“What do you got there? I want one, and then he’d laugh,” Sakho recalled.

Sakho’s last recollection of Al-Zahrani was around 1 a.m. Friday when he knocked on his bedroom door and asked if he was afraid to come out.

“I told him, ‘Afraid of what?'” said Sakho. “When I open the door, he’s walking back to his room. I said, “What’s up?'”

Saklo said Al-Zahrani simply walked through the living room and down the hallway into his bedroom. [backup link]

The Ithaca Journal, December 5, 2009:

VESTAL — Encounters with accused killer Abdulsalam Al-Zahrani led several local Muslims to take steps to avoid him when they saw him on campus or elsewhere in the community.

Al-Zahrani, the man accused of fatally stabbing Binghamton University Professor Richard Antoun on campus Friday, had accused fellow Middle Eastern students of following him, answering a greeting of peace with an obscene insult, and disparaging a local mosque, according to three students interviewed Saturday night.

“Tell these students not to follow me,” Awni Qasaimeh, a Jordanian studying for his doctorate in industrial and systems engineering, said Al-Zahrani told him last week. “Do not make me trouble.”

Qasaimeh said Al-Zahrani mentioned three students by name, causing Qasaimeh to wonder if Al-Zahrani might want to harm the students. To Qasaimeh, Al-Zahrani did not behave like a Muslim because he smoked tobacco during Ramadan and failed to attend Friday prayer services. [...]

Mohammad Hamasha, another doctoral student from Jordan, recalled an encounter with Al-Zahrani on a bus in Johnson City a year ago.

Hamasha said he addressed Al-Zahrani with a traditional Muslim greeting meaning “peace be upon you.” He said Al-Zahrani responded, “you are the brother of a (expletive).” [backup link]

WBNG News, December 5, 2009:

Al-Zahrani lived at 209 Main Street in the City of Binghamton for the past 3 weeks.

He shared the apartment with two other BU graduate students. [...]

“He would scream on the phone sometimes in Arabic and that was one of the things that kind of bothered me because he just moved in and would leave his door open and just scream on the phone,” said Luis Pena. [backup link]

Worcester Telegram & Gazette, December 8, 2009:

Richard T. Antoun, a respected Binghamton University anthropology professor who grew up in Shrewsbury, spent his entire career seeking peace. His work focused on bridging the divide between religions and cultures, particularly in the Middle East. [...]

Mr. Antoun was “a sociocultural anthropologist who has conducted research among peasants in Jordan, urbanites in Lebanon, peasant-farmers in Iran, and migrants in Texas and Greece,” according to the Web site for Binghamton University, which is part of the State University of New York system. He taught at the University of Chicago, Manchester University in England and Cairo University, according to his résumé, which is also posted on the site.

Mr. Antoun had written six books focusing on the Middle East, and spent much of his long career educating people about the region and its people. His 2001 book, “Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Muslim and Jewish Movements,” was particularly timely, coming out just before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He retired from teaching at Binghamton University in 1999, but remained active on campus and within the anthropology department. [backup link]

The Norfolk Crime Examiner, December 8, 2009:

…The Saudi national is accused of entering Antoun’s office at Binghamton University and stabbing the 77-year-old professor to death with a kitchen knife. Police say that al-Zahrani was still in the building when they arrived.

Witnesses told reporters that when police officers asked al-Zahrani about Antoun, he said, “Yeah, I just stabbed him.” [backup link]

Binghamton University Pipe Dream, December 8, 2009:

…Al-Zahrani lived with two other BU graduate students, Souleymane “Jules” Sakho and Luis Pena, on Main Street in Binghamton for the past three weeks.According to Sakho, a Senegal native who came to BU this past August as a Fulbright scholar, the landlord of the first-floor unit in which he lived rented out a room to Al-Zahrani without discussing it with the tenants.

“Since there was a spare room [the landlord] didn’t ask for our opinion,” Sakho said. “I am usually in my room, so I didn’t think it would be a problem.” [...]

Sakho, a PIC student studying the abolition of capital punishment, discussed his concerns with [PIC director Joshua Price] on Dec. 1. Price suggested Sakho speak to an official at the University Counseling Center, who then advised Sakho to avoid Al-Zahrani when possible.Sakho said that this experience has made him rethink his study somewhat, though it has not changed his impression of the country.

“Americans, they are wonderful people. This is the only bad experience here,” Sakho said. [...]

According to Sakho, a Christian converted from Islam, Al-Zahrani confronted him about his change of religion.

“I refused to discuss it with him,” Sakho said. [backup link]

from the “Sheik Yer Mami” blog:

His roommates and neighbors also say his behavior was strange.

“He was all the time shouting in Arabic, shouting threats, insulting this country for no reason,” said Sakho.

“He used to make a lot of noise, always at Dunkin Donuts next door to our apartment, and he used to shout a lot,” said Kalpak Bahlearo, Al-Zahrani’s neighbor.

“He told me there were students, who were spies for the government of Jordan that were harassing him,” said Pena.

WBNG News, December 10, 2009:

Senator Charles Schumer is following Broome County’s second case involving the prosecution of a foreign suspect.

Schumer says he’s been in touch with the District Attorney’s office. [...]

This is Broome’s second criminal case with international involvement in two years.

Miladin Kovacevic was one of 3 men charged with beating Binghamton University student Bryan Steinhaur in 2008.

A Serb consulate worker helped Kovacevic leave the US after posting bail.

“We have to make sure it’s not like the situation with Bryan where this person flees the county. The law enforcement authority says they’re keeping a careful eye there,” says U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

Kovacevic was a basketball player at BU.

He is being tried for assault in Serbia. [backup link]

Inside Binghamton, December 10, 2009:

…A sociocultural anthropologist, Antoun earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Williams College, his master’s in international relations from Johns Hopkins University and his PhD in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies from Harvard. A Fulbright Scholar in Eqypt early in his career, he conducted field work in Jordan, Lebanon and Iran among other locations.

Antoun taught at Indiana University prior to joining the faculty at Binghamton in 1970 and was also a visiting scholar/professor at the University of Manchester in England, American University of Beirut, the University of Chicago and Cairo University. He authored six books, including the popular Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Movements, retiring from Binghamton in 1999 and serving as a Bartle Professor until December 2002.

Antoun’s scholarly interests centered on comparative religion and symbolic systems, as well as the social organization of tradition in Islamic law and ethics. Colleague Michael Little, distinguished professor of anthropology, said Antoun was “very sensitive to Islamic culture.” [backup link]

The Press & Sun-Bulletin, December 11, 2009:

Richard T. Antoun’s final lesson would have been one of understanding his accused killer.

“He would have wanted people to understand, not judge,” said his sister, Linda Antoun Miller, following a memorial service Friday for Richard Antoun. [...]

More than 400 people crowded into the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Riverside Drive to say goodbye to Antoun. A table in the congregation’s sanctuary was decorated with a portrait of Antoun, a Red Sox cap, and a coffee bean grinder that was a gift from a friend in the Middle East.

The professor had close ties to the Middle East. His grandfather was Lebanese and much of his work in academia centered in that region of the world, colleagues said. [...]

That held true with the “lunch bunch,” a group of retirees, including Antoun, who met once a week at the Park Diner in Binghamton, and whose food choices were well-known by the waitresses there.

Richard Antoun always had Boston cream pie, said his friend, George Haeseler, a member of Broome County Peace Action, as was Antoun. [...]

Antoun, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, joined the BU faculty in 1976. He authored six books and numerous articles about life and culture in the Middle East. Two of his specialties were comparative religion and the social organization of tradition in Islamic law and ethics.

Officials said his death wasn’t related to his work, which included an examination of fundamentalism in Islam, Christianity and Judaism. [backup link]

Fox 40 WICZ.com, December 11, 2009:

Friday night is the first night of Hanukah, a celebration that commemorates an ancient war and the light of the Jewish people.

Earlier Friday we spoke with the Rabbi of the Chabad Center who was busy preparing a meal for more than 300 Jewish students.

The Hanukah celebration will include the lighting of a menorah, games, a gift exchange and of course eating traditional food.

But Friday night’s festivities will take on a somber tone, as the community dedicates the service to B.U. Professor Richard Antoun, a personal friend of the Rabbi.

“He was a light to everybody, his life was dedicated to bringing more light, more inspiration to everybody, he was known to everybody that reached out to every human being,” said Rabbi, Aaron Slonim. [backup link]

Arab News, December 11, 2009:

…Speaking to Al-Riyadh daily he said his brother is a liberal but was disappointed with the perceived weaknesses of Muslims and Arabs.

“My brother was keen to learn about human sciences, his ultimate goal was education. He did not get married but devoted his time to education,” said Abdul Rahman, adding that his brother had graduated from King Abdulaziz University after studying accounting before being employed by Samba Bank and Savola Group. He then went to the US on different occasions to study his master’s and Ph.D… [backup link]

Binghamton University Pipe Dream, December 14, 2009:

According to a report from the Press & Sun-Bulletin, the graduate student accused of fatally stabbing a Binghamton University professor will have a lawyer and other legal fees paid for by the Saudi Arabian consulate.

Abdulsalam Al-Zahrani, a 46-year-old Saudi national, was provided an attorney by the consulate as part of Saudi policy for their citizens. The consulate retained New York City lawyer Frederica L. Miller to represent Al-Zahrani.

The report further stated that the consulate had not been aware of Al-Zahrani’s studies in the United States or his age. The consulate requests Saudi students studying in the U.S. to register with them.

The consulate has kept Al-Zahrani’s family in Saudi Arabia and one relative in the U.S. informed of the case and the scheduled court dates.

Al-Zahrani has been charged with murder in the second degree by the Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen after allegedly stabbing and killing BU anthropology professor Richard Antoun, 77, four times with a 6-inch kitchen blade Dec. 4.

A motive for the crime still has not been released, although a press release from Mollen dismissed the idea of an ethnic or religious motivation. [backup link]

The Press & Sun-Bulletin, December 10, 2009:

Officials at the http://www.saudiembassy.net/ Saudi Arabia consulate weren’t aware that accused killer Abdulsalam S. Al-Zahrani was in the United States. They were also surprised to learn he is 46 years old.

Still, the government of Saudi Arabia will pay Al-Zahrani’s legal fees.

“The embassy has no record of him here,” said embassy spokesman Nail Al-Jubair.

The Saudis became aware of Al-Zahrani after reading media accounts of his alleged crime. [backup link]

The Press & Sun-Bulletin, December 9, 2009:

…According to her Web site, [Al-Zahrani's defense attorney Frederica L. Miller] is a 1986 graduate of Antioch School of Law in Washington, D.C. She specializes in criminal defense, white collar crime and family law. A former assistant district attorney for Kings County and member of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office in New York City, Miller went into private practice in 1998. She is a member of the New York City and New York state bar associations. [backup link]

Binghamton University Pipe Dream, December 14, 2009:

When Souleymane “Jules” Sakho walked into the Binghamton University Counseling Center nearly two weeks ago to express his concern about his roommate, he said he was advised to avoid interaction with Abdulsalam Al-Zahrani[...]

Dr. Mary Muscari, director of the O’Connor Office of Rural Health Studies in the Decker School of Nursing, spoke generally about situations of looming violence.

“You really should pay attention to threats,” she said. Muscari is a specialist in forensics and an authority on violence in schools. She was consulted frequently in reference to the shooting at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999.

“Not every threat is going to escalate,” she said, “but threats themselves are inappropriate.” She noted that it is illegal to threaten a person.

Details of the information discussed in Sakho’s consultation with the University Counseling Center are protected under doctor-patient confidentiality agreements, but Sakho did state that he brought the situation to the attention of the center.

The Counseling Center’s Clinical Director Dr. J. Thomas Cousins said that no information regarding any individual’s use of the Counseling Center’s services may be divulged, except in certain situations.

Consequently, in cases involving only general abuse or broad, imprecise threats of violence, the Counseling Center does not have the authority to take preemptive action.

In order for them to take action, the danger, Cousins said, “has to be clear, and it has to be imminent.” He acknowledged that the threat of danger must be specific and explicit, but declined to comment on the specifics of Sahko’s situation.

Cousins said that if action beyond the legal capacity of the Counseling Center is considered necessary, a direct appeal to the police would be appropriate.

“We would encourage people to contact the police if they feel they are unsafe,” he said.

Muscari echoed that recommendation.

“If there’s an issue where somebody else feels threatened, you really should be calling the police. Let them be the ones to decide,” she said. “They’re the ones who can act on it.”

She also made suggestions for how to distinguish between real threats and perceived ones.

Potentially violent people will often give indications or warnings that they are going to do something.

“Usually if somebody’s just angry or blowing off steam it’s a general kind of thing,” she said.

But, there is a difference, Muscari said, “If somebody’s threatening and there’s a specific target in mind.”

She also said that in many cases there is a significant event that occurs to lead to the act of violence.

Disheartening events such as the end of a relationship, a major failure in work or studies, or a new state of financial hardship can trigger a violent response, she said. [backup link]

Binghamton University Pipe Dream, December 14, 2009:

Students and faculty were encouraged to avoid Science I Friday after a professor was stabbed, yet classes were not closed and the building was not shut down until later that day.

Though throughout the history of Binghamton University individual buildings have been closed and secured in response to emergency reports, there has never been a complete campus lockdown, and, according to officials, there most likely never will.

Forms of emergency communication on campus include the emergency alert system, which sends messages to campus e-mail addresses and registered cell phones, an outdoor siren, campus television channel 42, electronic message boards at the entrance to campus and in dining halls and the B-Line listserv. [...]

[Lt. Madeline Bay of Binghamton's New York State University Police] added that on Friday, many students, faculty and staff members received Rave Alert text messages. But because not everyone was signed up for them, not everyone got word of the situation.

“The alert said for people to avoid Science I because of the police operation; it was not a safety thing,” Hubeny, said. “The decision of what the people already in the building should do was made by the police at the scene. [They cleared] the building following their own policies.” [...]

According to Bay, Friday’s fatal stabbing of professor emeritus Richard Antoun, was “quite random” and something that has to be accepted as a random act of violence. She also said that the last murder that occurred on campus was at least 30 years ago, when a student was murdered in the Tillman Lobby of the Old University Union.

Other incidents of violence at BU include a report on Sept. 27, 1977, at approximately 10:27 p.m., that an undergraduate female was assaulted and raped in a wooded location on campus. No name of the victim or perpetrator was released, according to a report from Pipe Dream on Sep. 30 of that year, but the perpetrator was said to be wielding a knife.

Several students have been severely injured in fights over the years, she said, but there have been no “downright attacks” in the manner of the Dec. 4 incident.

According to Bay, the University decided to partially arm University police in early 1999. As of Jan. 1 of that year, the University Law Enforcement Division, which then oversaw BU, became the State University Police.

During this time these officers were given “police officer status,” and since the officers were “doing the police job,” they were provided the tools, with limitations, Bay said.

The discussion to arm campus security was first brought up in 1973 when the effectiveness of the security forces on State University of New York campuses was under review. At that time, officers on the University at Albany campus were being selectively armed.

Then-BU President C. Peter Magrath said that the arming of security at BU was unnecessary, according to a Pipe Dream report from Oct. 1973. [backup link]

News 10 Now, January 22, 2010:

The man accused of stabbing and killing a Binghamton University professor has been indicted by a grand jury.

Abdulsalam Al-Zahrani has been formally charged with second degree murder for the December 4th slaying of Professor Richard Antoun. The indictment by the Broome County grand jury says Al-Zahrani intentionally killed the 77-year-old anthropology professor by stabbing him several times… [backup link]

News 10 Now, February 5, 2010:

A not guilty plea for the man accused of killing a Binghamton University professor.

Abdulsalam al-Zahrani, 45, pleaded not guilty to second degree murder in a Broome County Court Thursday. [...]

He did not request bail and will remain in the Broome County Jail pending his next hearing… [backup link]

Binghamton University Pipe Dream, March 2, 2010:

Family and friends of Professor Emeritus Richard Antoun came together last week to celebrate the life of a cherished and respected man. [...]

This was the first time Roz Antoun had spoken publicly since the death of her husband.

“This campus was Dick’s home away from home for nearly 40 years,” Roz Antoun said. “The students energized him, educated him and brought new ideas to his world.”

To honor the memory of Antoun, an Eastern Redbud tree will be planted in the Science I complex near Antoun’s office to commemorate his dedication to the University, DeFleur said. The shape and branches of the tree are meant to symbolize Antoun’s broad understanding and commitment to the spread of knowledge.

Professors who worked with Antoun spoke of him not only as a coworker, but as a friend.

Theodore Brewster, a programmer analyst in telecommunications at BU, spent numerous lunches with Antoun during the years they worked together. He said that he learned a great deal through their friendship.

“Dick was my teacher. I paid no tuition, he gave me no grades,” he said. “I was taught about religious and ethnic traditions. What I learned best was about understanding – understanding ‘the other’ – what I think he believed to be the key of peace.”

Many of Antoun’s close friends are still grieving over the loss of the professor, whom they described as an insightful, gracious and just man.

“Sadly he is gone and has left us behind,” Khalil Semaan, a professor emeritus of Arabic, said. “I’m going to miss him terribly; he was my best friend.” [...]

According to Carol Finch, a member of the Unitarian Universalist church in Binghamton, which she and Antoun both attended, the service and reception met her expectations… [backup link]

The Press & Sun-Bulletin, September 28, 2010:

The Binghamton University graduate student accused of killing a professor last December by stabbing him multiple times with a knife was suffering from a longstanding mental illness, according to court documents filed by his attorney. [...]

Psychiatric evidence will show al-Zahrani lacked substantial capacity to know or appreciate the nature and consequences of his conduct, New York City-based defense attorney Frederica Miller wrote in documents filed July 21 in Broome County Court.

“The defendant was psychotic and suffering from a longstanding major mental illness, schizoaffective disorder,” Miller wrote in the notice of intent to use psychiatric evidence.

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental condition that causes a loss of contact with reality and mood problems, according to health-related websites.

Reached Monday, Miller wouldn’t comment further. Al-Zahrani’s other attorney, Vincent Accardi of Binghamton, could not be reached Monday. [...]

According to court records, evidence will include testimony from the defense’s medical experts, Steven Simring and Charles Patrick Ewing.

Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen said the prosecution would have its own doctors examine al-Zahrani. That process is under way, he said. [...]

Al-Zahrani remains in the Broome County Jail without bail. A conviction on the second-degree murder charge would carry a minimum sentence of 15 years to life and a maximum of 25 years to life, under New York statutes. [backup link]

Associated Press, November 2, 2010:

Prosecutors say a new trial date has been set for the former graduate student charged with stabbing a Binghamton University professor to death last year.

Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen says Abdulsalam al-Zahrani (ab-DUHL’-sah-lam al-zah-RAH’-nee) is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 22 in county court in Binghamton. His trial was originally scheduled to start Jan. 18. [backup link]

FOX 40 News WICZ TV, January 7, 2011:

On Friday, during a pre-trial court examination, 32-year-old John Roby took the witness stand visibly anxious. About a year ago, he was a graduate student who shared classes with Abdulsalam al-Zahrani…

Roby says al-Zahrani was a friendly person and not a violent character.

He did however, remember an instance when he thought al-Zahrani acted strangely.

It was September 2009, three months before Professor Antoun’s death, al-Zahrani was supposed to be in Michigan on a field study. Instead, he was at the university.

When Roby approached al-Zahrani, he says there was a coldness to him. “Yes, I’m back” was his only response, and he turned away.

There was also a letter presented to the court, written by al-Zahrani before Professor Antoun’s death. In it, al-Zahrani accuses Roby of being threatening. He recalls an instance when he asked Roby why he was intimidating him. The letter says Roby’s response was, “Because we’re smarter than you.”

Roby denied the statement was ever made… [backup link]

WBNG News, January 7, 2011:

…A witness for the defense, John Roby, 32, will be out of the state next month, which is why his testimony is being recorded for a jury in advance to al-Zahrani’s February trial [...]

On stand Friday morning in Broome County Court, he describes their relationship as cordial and friendly.

During part of 2009, al-Zahrani went of of state for research.

When he returned in September that year, Roby says, “al-Zahrani seemed distracted, less friendly, cold and withdrawn.”

But he was not aware of issues in al-Zahrani’s personal life and had never known al-Zahrani to be threatening. [backup link]

The Press & Sun-Bulletin, February 17, 2011:

The trial of a former Binghamton University graduate student accused of killing a professor by stabbing him multiple times with a knife is scheduled to begin Tuesday , with the student’s mental state seen as a key issue in the case.

Abdulsalam al-Zahrani, 46, will go on trial in Broome County Court nearly 15 months after he was accused of stabbing Richard Antoun, an emeritus professor of anthropology, in Science Building 1 on the Binghamton University campus.

County Court Judge Martin E. Smith has booked two weeks for the trial, said Broome County District Attorney Gerald Mollen, who will prosecute the case along with Joann Rose Parry, chief assistant DA.

Mollen would not discuss the case in advance but said the defense has filed notice of a psychiatric defense. Such a notice must be filed if psychiatric issues are to be raised during the trial… [backup link]

WBNG-TV Action News, February 18, 2011:

The Broome County District Attorney’s Office says the court has postponed the murder trial for Abdusalam al-Zahrani, 45, from Saudi Arabia.

An examination by two Broome County psychologists this week determined he is incompetent to stand trial. [...]

The DA’s office says doctors concluded Al-Zahrani lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or assist in his own defense.

An order of examination has been issued, and he will be committed to a state mental health facility.

He could be tried if and when he is found to be competent again. [backup link]

from a commenter at this blog about Saudi Arabia: [NOTE: the awkward writing here is due to a Google translation]

emails Al-Zarhani sent to Al Watan about an article in the Israeli newspaper Maariv.

The original in Arabic:
http://www.watan.com/feature/16247
(will not print in Arabic characters here I tried)

The original Googlish with his comments, all on Oct 22, 2009:

Tel Aviv University: “The Arabs are the deeper failure in the history of mankind” ..

Under the title “Science racism” newspaper “Maariv” to the racist statements for d. Hevtan Dan lecturer at the University of Tel Aviv in a special session before the “students” are the words of senior officials in the security services and political rights.
The newspaper pointed out that the participants in the session listened to the comments racist insults against Arabs in the interior in particular, and Arabs in general.
Among the statements quoted him as saying “The Arabs are the biggest failure in the history of mankind,” and “There’s nothing disturbed more than the Palestinians” and “the Arab world, the deeper failure, and does not say that have undergone political correctness miserable.”
It also quoted him as saying, “When Israel launches sophisticated satellites into space, the Arabs are coming out with a new type of chick peas.” The saying this in the context of explaining the theory of security in Israel in a program of diplomacy and security for senior managers.
And the Iran-Iraq war, described as “seven years of fun,” and said he was “in the Arab world are shooting at weddings to prove that there are one weapon only, at least, capable of fire.”
The newspaper described the records as one of the most influential academics to senior officials in the security services and political rights. He is known for his views of these many years.
The newspaper quoted him as his claim “that the quotes attributed to him are for a laugh. The portion of these words spoken in the lecture hall or passing conversation has been removed from the context.”
He also claimed that “supply project in the cartoon humor, which distorts and misleads when it displays the message from the records. The allegation that these statements reflect the message is to recognize the profound contempt for adult students, on the assumption that the student ignores the systematic research and well-documented and balanced for long hours, and develops the consciousness on the basis of observations marginal like this. ”
In response to a question about whether students despise when he speaks this way, he said that “students do not need him. There is no group of people has failed significantly to the achievement of goals set by the front like the Arabs. When he tried to work in any Arab as far failed .. the failure of the Arab world deeply, and does not say that he was subjected to poor standards of political correctness, “as he put it.
Anton Shalhat: Sample Barrz for the information of the racist Israeli Orientalism ..
Commenting on these statements, writer and researcher Anton Shalhat Hevtan that Dan is a notable example of the “science Orientalism” Israel, which draws from the swamps of white racism.. What he said and later claimed that, as a “humor” can be found between the folds of “research” and his articles. Therefore, this claim is a false claim in its entirety.
“What I am thinking of these articles is that of the owners of” theory “which claims that the Arab world lacks the qualifications required in order to deal with modern reality, and that this is not about a crisis or difficulty passing spot, but a structural problem, and that” the Arab and Islamic terrorism ” is a Tnafisi community is helpless!.
“I do not need to remind Hevtan the contributions of Arabs in human history, over the days through, and if it was based on his racist remarks to the modern time, which can not obscure the fact that his position toward the Arabs in general and to the Palestinian people in particular positions are infected with racism, and aims to serve political goals do not jibe with the real-time scientific study Blvd.
Shalhat researcher also pointed out that it was known that such Hevtan of “elites” Zionism still ignore the existence of this people, let alone their rights, to justify practices of ethnic cleansing and war crimes committed against him, which began to penetrate the awareness about it among the world public opinion, finally .
He may be new in these remarks is that they Tndfr in the atmosphere of racism and fascism _it more and more in recent years, and have the umbrella of official government and legal proceedings.
He said: “There remains what is unfortunate is that our response to this atmosphere did not live up to the required level, who can put an end to these appearances, is expected to worsen.”
Remarks Dan Hvtan: indicators for the system and a bloody escalation of the Israeli street
For its part, condemned the People’s Committee for the Defense of Freedoms Hvtan statement, said that the words of Prof. Dan Hvtan from the University of Haifa that “the Arabs are the most difficult error of humanity” and the subsequent words and concepts more racist but a sign of how low the Israeli apartheid and colonial discourse to the spread of the closest to the Nazis.
The committee added in a statement received 48 site a copy of the Arabs: “Considering Hvtan of the most influential experts on Israeli security intelligence, and his words came in his lectures at the University of Haifa in the National Security College and to students who are officers of the Mossad and Shin Bet and Military Intelligence, what douche by Hvtan reflects the nature of the academic institution and is a prelude to the escalation of the bloody and racist Israeli regime and the street.
The Commission on the freedoms flowing from the Commission on the follow-up to the concepts that come by Hvtan and other security establishment will be translated into practice against each of the deadliest Palestinian or Arab is a platform to step up prosecutions Academy of Political and bloody attacks.
The Commission also stressed that it is through vehicles is exerting intensive efforts for the escalation and expansion of the international campaign to boycott Haifa University and the entire Israeli academia and the boycott of Israel as a system of racial colonial dangerous, and such a campaign consists of a deterrent to racism and protective of victims.
The statement concluded by saying that the Freedoms Committee report abuse Goldstone UN with the Arab masses at home and repression and political prosecutions during the Israeli aggression constitutes a favorable background for the escalation of the international campaign in response to escalation of racial colonial towards all people, including the Arab masses in the interior.

Abdulsalam Alzahrani: aalzahr1@binghamton.edu
I completly agree…even if these statements are made by the ugliest soul on earth, the soul of a quintessential sick animal-without-a-tail israeli orientalist…why should we be upset…we are people ruled by the most corrupted blood-sucking, sadomasachistic (sadist with us and masachist with their overseas lords), demented, ignorant and incapable gangs, deprived in body and mind, deformed in consciousness (we must erase this word from the Arabic dictionary…it is superfluous without a referent in the real world…our world)…
6
Abdulsalam: … They have produced people incapable of believing in life unless there is a mufti supporting one’s belief with a line from the quran or the books of lies (ie alhadeeth)…one grand mufti who allowed the youth to fight the infidals in Afghanistan once said the earth was flat squarer and another said we did not evolved like all organisms but created miraculously by the dexterous hands of god
8
Abdulsalam: … So here we have ignorant religious men regurgitating yello books and religious satillites reproducing wet dreams and on top of that yello journalism propagating stupidity and callousness…and the youth are imprisoned between attarheeb wa ttargheeb of education that reaches the depthes of their unconsciousness and the threat of force…with this system they are dehumanized, turned into disoriented beasts full of guilt and meanness …their freedom has been squeezed out of them.
9

Abdulsalam: … If you are not fooled by this system of education you will be forced into a course of reeducation by the security forces…incarserated and casterated and tortured (our prisons are full of people who say I am not convinced)…the irony is that most of these people are raised within the Sultan/Qadhi system and believe it…so the system is not working and only now because it has failed to work that it’s been reexamined and overhaulled!)
10

Abdulsalam: …
Backward trible medievalist interpretation of religion imprisoned within worldviews long defunct upholding a system of rule, outwardly modern inwardly trible, propelled by corruption, injustice, coercion, secrecy and lack of transparency, and the absence of the minmum sense responiblity…
11

Abdulsalam: …
With that an army of security forces baught by money and a few quranic verses…how can freedom flourish? how could critical thinking reexamine the inherited assumptions? how could sensitive consciousness awake at the atrocities committed against the weakest segment of the population? how could a sense of responsiblity flourish?
12

Abdulsalam: …
Now I have to say something to this idiot who said the Arabs are the grossest fuilure in the history of human beings. No failure equals the Israeli…your were f… up under a tolitarian rule in europe and the rule failed and you want to replicate it!!! how stupid is this? what failure is this? Einstein himself refused to join you doomed enterprience and Freud himself thought that you were theafts sealing even the moral innovatons of other people even the hummus you have stolen, the land, the water, resources of Phalistine…you are a bunch of psychopath theaves and murdurers…everyone is against you because of your unethical immoral criminal actions…you killed children!!! what else you want to be convinced that you are shame of humanity
14

Here’s a review of Antoun’s book by Daniel Pipes’ “Middle East Quarterly.”

from the blog of “Bill Warner Sarasota FL Private Eye”:

AbdulSalam S. Al-Zahrani, 46, Bio, accounting at King Abdul Aziz University, employed by Samba Bank and Savola Group, stabs to death Prof. Richard T. Antoun at Binghamton University, just your normal Saudi guy like Osam bin-Laden, 52, who also went to King Abdul Aziz University.

Thanks to Creeping Sharia and Rebecca Bynum at The Iconoclast for the links.

Comments
  1. [...] More background here, Binghamton, NY Al-Zahrani Professor Stabbing Trial. [...]

  2. [...] acting oddly, like a terrorist”, and, according to C5′s blog (upon whom I rely for most of the subsequent details), often mentioned death… said he was [...]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s