Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Riverside Park South Stabber Setenced to 23 Years
Julius Graham, 44, in State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Tuesday where he was sentenced to 23 years in prison. On October 1, 2013 Mr. Graham went on a rampage in Riverside Park South, stabbing 5 people including an 18-month-old in a stroller. (Photos: Michael Appleton for The New York Times)
A man who went on a rampage with a broken pair of scissors in Riverside Park in Manhattan and stabbed five people, including a child in a stroller, was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Tuesday.
The man, Julius Graham, 44, pleaded guilty in April to six counts of assault in a deal with the Manhattan prosecutors, who agreed to drop attempted murder charges against him. Mr. Graham said nothing before Justice Charles H. Solomon of State Supreme Court in Manhattan imposed the sentence. Mr. Graham’s lawyer, Heather Smith, said her client was experiencing “sincere remorse.”
On Oct. 1, 2013, Mr. Graham shattered a peaceful morning in the park along the Hudson River on the Upper West Side when people were jogging, walking, strolling with their children, or just sitting in the warm sun. Wielding blades from a broken pair of scissors, he attacked random victims for no apparent reason. He stabbed and slashed two female joggers, a man walking his dog, a father and the 18-month-old son he was pushing in a stroller, prosecutors said. The child was saved when a bystander wrestled Mr. Graham to the ground and held him until the police arrived.
Deanna Koestel, a jogger who was stabbed by Mr. Graham, recalled the attack in court. “Those images and memories will haunt me for a lifetime,” she said.
“This is one of the most frightening types of cases that I have ever seen,” Justice Solomon said. “It’s a completely random attack.” Before the sentencing, one of the joggers, Deanna Koestel, described the horror she felt when Mr. Graham plunged the scissors into her back several times, puncturing her lung twice and dislocating her shoulder as she fell. A marathon runner, Ms. Koestel said she had three surgeries and months of painful recovery. “Those images and memories will haunt me for a lifetime,” she said.
Another victim, Ben Loehnen, who was attacked while walking his dog, said he felt lucky to be alive. “The immediate experience was surreal,” he said. Without warning, Mr. Graham stabbed Mr. Loehnen twice in the chest, the blade just missing his heart and spine, but causing so much damage that surgeons were forced to remove his spleen and part of his pancreas during a five-hour operation. He said forgiveness was difficult. “I hope, Julius, that you and I both find kindness and peace in the years ahead,” he said.
Riverside Park South - Police officers guard the 59th Street entrance near the crime scene the morning of October 1 2013. Five people were attacked a few blocks north along the Greenway just before 8:00am by a 43-year-old emotionally disturbed Julius Graham. (Photo: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)
A third victim, James Fayette, sent a letter to court, which an assistant district attorney, Shanda Strain, read to the judge. Mr. Fayette described his fear and panic as Mr. Graham punched the scissor blade into his chest, collapsing his lung, and then slashed his 18-month-old son’s arm and back. “I now know evil,” he said.
Mr. Fayette said his worldview compelled him to forgive Mr. Graham, “but know I do it very reluctantly.”
The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said the sentence was a just outcome. “Julius Graham turned a peaceful New York City morning into a nightmare for five strangers,” Mr. Vance said in a statement.
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