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Manhattan DA Says Evidence Does Not Support Hate Crime Charges In Stabbing Of Asian-American Man

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Controversy is brewing over the Manhattan district attorney's decision not to bring a hate crime charge in the stabbing of an Asian-American man in Lower Manhattan.

Surveillance video shows the 36-year-old victim walking when his attacker runs up behind and stabs him in the back. It happened around 6:30 p.m. last Thursday outside the federal courthouse on Worth and Baxter Streets.

The suspect, 24-year-old Salman Muflihi, was held on half a million bail for charges brought by the Manhattan DA, including attempted murder and assault -- but not a hate crime.

As CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported, it seems to be a reversal from last week, when police sources said Muflihi would face hate crime charges because he said he didn't like the way the victim looked at him.

"A hate crime, in our book, is when you're being attacked for no reason other than your race. Clearly, when someone walked with a knife in Chinatown, stabbed the first person they see is Asian, that is a hate crime," community activist Don Lee told Rozner.

A district attorney spokesperson told CBS2, "The defendant's statement that he 'didn't like the way [the victim] looked at him' does not establish a hate crime when the evidence to date shows that he ran up to the victim from behind and may have never actually seen his face."

The DA has said in the complaint, "This case is every New Yorker's worst nightmare... to be attacked by a complete and total stranger with a large knife for no reason at all."

Sources said the suspect is emotionally disturbed.

Mayor Bill de Blasio even denounced the attack as anti-Asian-American, but CBS2's Hazel Sanchez asked him if there's concern people in the community are being scared unnecessarily.

"That's a fair question, Hazel, and that's why the NYPD is very, very careful about where the facts lead them and reporting back what they find," he replied. "So no, we can't prejudge each incident, we need the facts. But that said, there is clearly a horrible trend right now -- disgusting trend in this city and in this nation of attacks on Asian Americans."

The district attorney said the victim is in critical condition and may not survive.

Under the current charges, the suspect faces up to 25 years in prison.

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