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Ex-Obama official Stuart Seldowitz gets plea deal in NYC hate crime case

A former National Security Council official has reached a plea deal on hate crime charges after going on racist, anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic rants against a food cart vendor in New York in November.

Stuart Seldowitz, 64, pleaded not guilty in November to two counts of fourth-degree hate crime/stalking and one count of second-degree aggravated harassment, court records show.

On Thursday, Seldowitz reached a plea deal with authorities, allowing for the charges to be dismissed so long as he attends a 26-week anti-bias training program and avoids arrests or interacting with the victims, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office told CNN in an email it “frequently refers non-violent, misdemeanor hate crimes cases for programming and training because it can be the most appropriate and effective resolution to addressing the underlying conduct and ensuring public safety.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) criticized what it described as a “sweetheart deal” in a news release.

“Seldowitz’s vile verbal abuse and harassment targeting an innocent street vendor were caught on video for all to see,” said Afaf Nasher, executive director of CAIR’s New York chapter, in the release. “The sweetheart deal he received from the Manhattan DA’s office is a shameful affront of our justice system and wholly unfitting of his actions.”

CNN has reached out to Seldowitz’s attorney for comment.

Seldowitz was arrested after videos circulated on social media showing him verbally attacking the vendor of a food cart on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, insulting Islam and accusing the man of supporting Hamas.

“If we killed 4,000 Palestinian children, you know what? It wasn’t enough!” he said in one of the videos.

In another video, Seldowitz tells the vendor, “We’re going to put big signs here saying this guy believes in Hamas.”

In another video, Seldowitz asks the man whether he’s familiar with Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, better known as the Mukhabarat.

“Mukhabarat in Egypt will get your parents,” Seldowitz says to the vendor. “Does your father like his fingernails? They’ll take them out one by one.”

Seldowitz served as acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate in the early 2000s, according to a since-removed profile page on lobbying group Gotham Government Relations’ website. According to his LinkedIn profile, Seldowitz served in the position from February 2009 to January 2011 during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

“Gotham Government Relations has ended all affiliation with Stuart Seldowitz, an individual who hasn’t contributed to our work in years,” a statement on the New York City-based group’s website reads. “The video of his actions is vile, racist, and beneath the dignity of the standards we practice at our firm.”

Seldowitz had been harassing the vendor for two weeks, according to the Street Vendor Project, an advocacy group representing street vendors across New York City. Mohamed Attia, of the Street Vendor Project, told CNN the vendor said he did not instigate the conversation with Seldowitz.

His harassment came amid an “unprecedented” increase in reported anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias incidents since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, according to CAIR. A week after the Hamas attack, a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death outside of Chicago. His family’s landlord was charged in what police are calling a hate crime and has pleaded not guilty to charges including murder. And three Palestinian college students were shot in Vermont in November, causing one to be paralyzed.

Seldowitz is scheduled to appear in court on April 17.

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