Ex-White House staffer may avoid charges in alleged hate crime assault on NYC halal cart worker

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By Dan Sears

Hate crime and other charges will be dropped against a former White House adviser accused of stalking and harassing a halal cart worker on the Upper East Side, provided he completes a 26-week anti-bias training, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Stuart Seldowitz, 65, a former State Department staffer under President Barack Obama, was charged in late November with stalking as a hate crime and aggravated assault after viral videos captured him hurling Islamophobic insults at a halal cart worker at 83rd Street and 2nd Avenue.

Seldowitz’s insult-laden tirade circulated on social media at a time of high tensions and near-daily protests following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israelis and Israel’s ensuring siege of the Gaza Strip.

Videos showed a camera-wielding Seldowitz calling Mohamed Hussein, then 24, a “terrorist” and saying the killing of 4,000 Palestinian children due to Israeli counterstrikes “wasn’t enough.” In one video posted on X, formerly Twitter, Seldowitz asked the vendor if he “raped [his] daughter like Muhammad,” referring to the Islamic prophet.

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Seldowitz was released on bail in late November after pleading not guilty, according to court records. Neither he nor his attorney Scott Bookstein could be reached for comment on Friday.

Vice reported Seldowitz had served as acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate and was deputy director and senior political officer in the State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs from 1999 to 2003.

More recently, he was foreign affairs chair for Gotham Government Relations, a lobbying group. It announced in November it had severed all ties with Seldowitz, citing the “vile” and “racist” actions in the video.

In a court appearance on Wednesday, Seldowitz agreed to the deal, which also requires that he have no new arrests and not violate a protective order, according to Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s office.

The DA’s office frequently refers individuals charged with nonviolent misdemeanors to educational training programs. Seldowitz was a first-time offender with no prior criminal history, the office said.

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He was offered an opportunity to participate in an anti-bias program through the social work organization Queens Counseling for Change, where the DA’s office said it has sent 10 others facing charges in the last several years.

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