SYRACUSE, N.Y.—The federal criminal complaint against Patrick Dai, who has been accused of posting violent online threats against Jewish people at Cornell University, sheds some light on Dai’s final few days online before he was arrested.
Dai, a 21-year-old Cornell student from Pittsford, New York, was charged Tuesday with one count of posting threats to kill or injure another using interstate communications. He appeared in federal court in Syracuse at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday for his arraignment after being taken into federal custody on Tuesday.
Dai was assigned a federal public defender at the hearing.
Broome County Sheriff Fred Akshar posted a Facebook message explaining that Dai is being housed at the Broome County Correctional Facility, where he is under 24-hour supervision. Dai is in Broome County because of an agreement the department has to house federal inmates, Akshar said.
Dai’s parents, in an interview with the New York Post, said that Dai was “very nice” and “helpful” but has been deeply depressed since coming to Cornell in 2021. He stopped responding to their calls and messages a few days before his arrest, according to the interview, at which point his parents became scared Dai would harm himself. His mother drove to Ithaca to see her son, but he had been arrested by the time she arrived.
While his parents insisted that Dai is innocent of the charge, the criminal complaint, submitted by FBI special agent Michael Renn, shows that Dai admitted to making the posts while being interviewed by the FBI at the Cornell University Police Department. The complaint can be read at the bottom of this page.
The complaint is only used to establish probable cause, so it doesn’t disclose the full amount of evidence collected by investigators. But it does show that Cornell University Police had contacted the FBI on Saturday, Oct. 29, a day earlier than was previously known. Police specifically reported the threat to “shoot up” 104West, a kosher dining hall on campus, which had been posted and then removed.
The FBI received a separate tip from an anonymous caller about the threats. The caller passed along usernames and the content of the messages. The complaint states several other people contacted the FBI regarding the threats as well.
The criminal complaint shows that several more threats had been posted in the previous two days days, including six that were posted under various usernames throughout the day on Oct. 28. Other messages included threats of rape, Nazi references, graphic death threats against Jews on campus, general antisemitic stereotypes and another threat of “blowing up the student center,” presumably meaning the Center for Jewish Living that is next to 104West.
On Oct. 30, the FBI sent an emergency disclosure request to GreekRanks (listed as Website 1) seeking more information about the threats. The company told the FBI that the IP information had been accidentally deleted, but that it was still stored from a previous post on Oct. 26, which had come from a different account.
Eventually, federal agents were able to find two IP addresses connected to the various threats, one from Dai’s hometown of Pittsford and another from Ithaca, where Dai lived while attending Cornell. At some point Tuesday, police detained Dai and raided his Eddy Street apartment. The results of that raid are not disclosed in the complaint, but Dai is not facing any weapons possession charges.
In the wake of the arrest, Cornell University canceled classes on Friday, Nov. 3, announcing that a “community day” would be held. Non-essential employees are also excused from work for the day.
Cornell President Martha Pollack issued a letter Wednesday evening condemning antisemitism and “hatred of any form, including racism or Islamophobia,” then announcing a slew of measures the college will undertake to combat antisemitism.
Pollack’s letter also mentions a report this morning that an unidentified person, described as a college-aged Asian man dressed in black, was seen brandishing a pistol on University Avenue. Ithaca and Cornell police could not find any evidence of the man when they responded and have deemed it “unfounded.”