Schmidt Seeks More Time In Rushdie Attack

Hadi Matar is escorted to his seat Wednesday during a court appearance in Chautauqua County. Photo by Gregory Bacon

MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County District Attorney’s Office is going through tens of thousands of pieces of evidence in building its case against Hadi Matar, the New Jersey resident accused of stabbing Salman Rushdie last month, while the world renowned author continues to recover.

On Wednesday, Matar was back in county court with Public Defender Nathaniel Barone and District Attorney Jason Schmidt for a discovery conference. Schmidt is required by law to turn over the evidence he has to the defense team within 20 days of the indictment, which took place Aug. 18. Schmidt told Judge David Foley, the prosecution has about “30,000 files” that they are going through. He called it “exceptionally voluminous.”

No decision was made. The two sides will return to court Tuesday.

After court, Barone said he understands that the district attorney’s office has a lot of materials, but he said they’re still required to follow the laws. “We’re entitled to be afforded the protection of the process. … Just because Mr. Matar has been charged or accused with what he’s been accused of, doesn’t change that fact and just because there may be volumes of discovery out there, that doesn’t change the fact that that’s their job. They better get to it and we’re entitled to it,” he said.

Matar has been charged with second-degree attempted murder for the alleged stabbing Rushdie. He was additionally charged with second-degree assault for allegedly physically injuring another person during the stabbing. That other person was Ralph Henry Reese, 73, who was on stage when Rushdie was attacked.

Matar attacked Rushdie, 75, on Aug. 12 at Chautauqua Institution. He was speaking at a special lecture series event exploring the Week Seven theme of “More than Shelter” and was joined by Reese, co-founder of the Pittsburgh nonprofit City of Asylum. The pair were to discuss the United States as a place of asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression. Reese suffered a minor head injury in the attack.

Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death. A bounty of over $3 million has also been offered for anyone who kills Rushdie.

After court Wednesday, Schmidt said thankfully at this point, it appears Rushdie will not perish from the attack, but he is still exploring the possibility of upgrading charges, depending on what the investigation reveals.

Rushdie was stabbed a dozen times, including three times in the neck, four times in the stomach, two times in the chest, in his right eye, his hand and his thigh. “I believe he’s in a lot better shape than he was initially. I think there was concerns as to where he would go, but he does certainly have a lengthy recovery period ahead of him. Whether he will ever achieve a full recovery seems to me very questionable,” Schmidt said.

Barone said he does not expect the case to go to trial before the spring or summer. “This is a high publicity case, however, that doesn’t change the fact that the oldest case gets on the calendar first, so regardless of what kind of publicity a case has isn’t going to change that fact,” he said.


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